Cristiano Ronaldo: Do stats tell you the entire story?

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The final kick of the European season. Another headline grabbing moment. A certain man with his hair well gelled comes in really focused and slots it in the back of the net with authority. He tears his jersey in jubilation with the world watching another grandstand moment in the life of the Portuguese. Cristiano Ronaldo. Top scorer in the Champions League for the 4th successive year with 16 goals, 7 more than the second-best Robert Lewandowski.

Before ‘his’ moment, it was an another quiet game for the Real Madrid forward. Anonymous for most part of the 120 minutes, it was clearly apparent that he had ‘gone missing’ in a big game again. His compatriot on the other flank, Gareth Bale, seemed like the player Cristiano once was. Dribbling past players on the flank, taking risks, troubling defenders with pace and strength, it was another performance worthy of the hefty price tag in a big final. He was the only one amongst the BBC trio who looked dangerous and capable of making a difference. Another big performance from the Welshman and most importantly on the day when his team needed it the most. He is slowly moving out of Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow at Madrid and is growing in importance at the Bernabeu.

16 goals in 12 matches in Europe’s premier club competition and finishing another season with 50+ goals is definitely something to vaunt about. Taking a closer look at the stats of Ronaldo’s league goals, for his enormous goal scoring exploits Ronaldo has scored in around only 50% of the matches he has played in this season. Should a brace in a 10-2 humiliation of Rayo Vallecano or 5 goals scored in a game against Espanyol be counted on the same level as a goal in a final?

Till February, the goals he had scored were absolutely pointless for Real Madrid. If we were to chalk off his goals till Feb, Madrid would still have the same number of points. He had his moments in the latter part of the season with him scoring the winner in the Classico as well as a hat-trick (of 3 tap-ins) against Wolfsburg in the quarter finals garnering him much adulation. In the games where Real Madrid dropped points against Atletico, Sevilla, Valencia, Villarreal and Paris Saint-Germain (twice), Manchester City, Ronaldo looked a pale shadow of himself. It is apparent that Ronaldo is a player who thrives on space behind the defenders. The teams have been able to stop him by being compact and denying him just that. Ironically Ronaldo’s greatest moment in the Madrid jersey, the La Decima victory, was hardly a reflection of his brilliance. An extra time penalty when the game had been wrapped up was hardly befitting his shirt-ripping celebration.

An out and out winger in his early years, Ronaldo self-admittedly has shifted in to a more central goal scoring role in order to prolong his career. He has become a goal scoring machine. However, he has lost the core of the player he once used to be. His average shooting distance has reduced every year since the past 3 years. The strike against Porto whilst he was at Manchester United seems like a distant memory now. A player who could make a difference to any game on his own is now increasingly dependent on his team mates to provide him service. He has become increasingly more risk averse. We can hardly see him doing those famous step-overs or running at a player with the ball. His game reading and intelligence has improved massively over the past few years proved by the fact that he is in the right position almost each time the ball is delivered in the box. But is that all you expect from one of the world’s best players?

“The numbers speak for themselves,” Cristiano Ronaldo told UEFA.com, with the Real Madrid forward certain that he will go down in history as one of the greats. There is absolutely no doubt that Ronaldo will go down in history as the most prolific. However, in his continuous obsession with numbers, Ronaldo has perhaps overlooked the most important statistic which probably is not measured in mere digits: his true value to a team. Statistics can tell you only a part of the story. And the greatest players in the world do not need statistical validation. In spite of all this, there have been only two players better than Ronaldo over the past decade: Lionel Messi and the Manchester United version of Cristiano Ronaldo.

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