Cristiano Ronaldo

Is Cristiano Ronaldo finally beginning to slow down?

The super-fit superstar is nearing the end of his career - but are his numbers beginning to drop off yet?

 
3:00pm on Wednesday 29th April 2020
By
Paul Macdonald

It has been, it's fair to say, quite the career.

Cristiano Ronaldo is 35 now, and while he maintains an enviable level of fitness time can't be defeated, particularly in players for whom goals are their ultimate function.

He is already performing at a higher level at this point in his timeline than many would have expected, and has done a wondrous job in reinventing his style and evolve - or maybe devolve - his game from a blistering quick wide player into a goal-poaching centre-forward.

But it's worth looking at his numbers from the past three seasons to assess how he matches up to his own standards. Are we witnessing the beginning of an irretrievable regression from one of the greatest ever, or is he largely still functioning at the highest of levels?

1. GOALS AND ASSISTS

Ronaldo (La Liga/Serie A)

Stat2017/182018/192019/20
Goals P901.020.700.97
Non-Pen Goals P900.900.540.65
Non-Pen Cont P901.100.800.79

Ronaldo's final season at Real Madrid, and the scoring numbers he put up that year, make it all the more bizarre that the club decided to let him go. Because Ronaldo has always taken penalties, his straight scoring numbers are perennially padded, but his 0.90 non-penalty goals P90 in La Liga in 2017/18 is a fantastic total and the drop-off since is stark.

The debate over the quality of the defending in Spain v Italy and how teams react to going in front in both leagues is for another time, but Ronaldo just hasn't been as prolific at Juventus. His Non-pen goals have responded this season - 0.65 - to a weak 18/19 total but he is still some way off his peak in this regard and you can see from his goal P90 figures how much penalties provide CR7 a real scoring buffer. His non-pen contributions - which is basically a combination of goals and assists - has also fallen quite considerably from the peak of 17/18.

Ronaldo (Champions League)

Stat2017/182018/192019/20
Goals P901.150.720.29
Non-Pen Goals P900.850.600.29
Non-Pen Cont P901.080.840.43

Assessing Ronaldo's Champions League numbers is problematic because of how good he and Real Madrid were in 17/18, but again there's an obvious drop-off.

From a huge 0.85 Non-pen goals P90, he is now on a very unremarkable 0.29 for 19/20, though the sample size is of course smaller. It's fair to say that his one-and-a-half seasons of CL football at Juventus have been underwhelming so far.

2. SHOTS AND SHOOTING ACCURACY

Ronaldo (La Liga/Serie A)

Stat2017/182018/192019/20
Shots P907.05.96.0
On Target P903.02.32.5
Shot Accuracy43%39%42%
Conversion Rate14.5%11.9%16.2%

Elite forwards regularly hit a lot of shots and it's a generally accepted that if you don't shoot, you don't score. Ronaldo is notorious for the number of efforts on goal he takes and this, largely, has remained a consistent part of his game over the past three seasons. He has dropped off from a high of seven shots P90 in 17/18 but his six P90 this season is still among the highest in Europe.

His on target P90 and in association his shot accuracy has remained very stable, as has his conversion rate.

Ronaldo (Champions League)

Stat2017/182018/192019/20
Shots P906.35.84.5
On Target P902.61.61.7
Shot Accuracy41%28%38%
Conversion Rate18.3%12.4%6.4%

But once again the drop-off for Ronaldo is really felt in Europe. His shots P90 are down from 6.3 P90 to 4.5 P90 this season, and though his shot accuracy has bounced back in 19/20, his conversion rate is just 6.4% - an extraordinarily low total for an elite player shooting as regularly as he does. This would be of particular concern.

3. EXPECTED GOALS

Ronaldo (La Liga/Serie A)

Stat2017/182018/192019/20
Expected Goals27.00 (+1)23.3 (2.3)17.4 (3.6)
Expected Goals P901.050.780.8

We will focus on Ronaldo's league performances here and in terms of his overall expected goals figure, it's not worth comparing seasons with this one being incomplete, what we can do is see how actual versus expected totals shape up.

In 17/18 and 18/19 Ronaldo actually underperformed his expected goal total, but it is actually more of a concern that in 19/20 he actually has 3.5 goals more than we would reasonably expect.

His Expected Goals P90 figures since moving to Italy are also suffering quite a drop-off. If we go further back through Ronaldo's xG figures, all the way to 14/15, we can see an average xG P90 of 1.03. In his two seasons in Italy, it is reduced to 0.79.

4. PASSES, TOUCHES AND POSITIONING

Ronaldo (La Liga/Serie A/Champions League)

Stat2017/182018/192019/20
Passes P902933.537.5
Comp Dribbles P901.51.91.9
Touches P904654.155.8
Touches In Box P90106.56.6

Utilising this data for league and European performances combined, we can see a subtle change in Ronaldo. His passes P90, completed dribbles P90 and touches P90 are all higher in Italy than they were in his last season in Spain.

Does Ronaldo feel a greater sense of overall responsibility at Juventus than at Real Madrid? Does he feel the need to drop deeper and get more involved in the play rather than merely score? Furthermore, he isn't spending as much time within the penalty area as he did at Real Madrid. In his last season in Spain he averaged 10 touches in the box P90, but in Italy that amount is 6.6. It is a significant drop-off.

5. THE MEANING OF GOALS

FootballCritic defines a 'decisive' goal as one that changes the match state into the state in which it ends. Think of an equaliser that earns a point, or a goal that puts his team ahead. Ronaldo's goals still hold value to Juventus and 10 is an excellent total for 2019/20 but this is still down on 14 in his final season in Spain. He has however retained a strong ability to open the scoring in matches, as well as pick up man-of-the-match awards.

Though, his FC average rating is down from a high of 7.7 in 17/18 to 7.3 this season.

6. THE GOALS THEMSELVES

Ronaldo is still capable of astounding moments, such as his mind-bending leap against Sampdoria to score one of the best headers of recent years.

The most obvious thing is the number of penalties, but beyond that there is still some neat finishes, the Portuguese able to find gaps sometimes where one doesn't seem to be there.

But there are also a fair share of scrappy efforts here, deflections and poor goalkeeping helping his total considerably. It's not the highest quality of highlight reels.

CONCLUSION

Make no mistake - for a 35 year old, Ronaldo remains elite and his numbers put him among the best talent there is. But by his own standards these numbers are coming down and this is a trend that time cannot heal.

There is no doubting Ronaldo's otherworldly dedication and application, which will likely extend his top level career for a few years at least - exceptionally rare for a forward. But we should expect the numbers he has been posting to come down further still, as we enjoy the sunset of one of the greatest playing careers football has ever seen.

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