There are a few athletes in the world that do not need any introduction. They not only mean so much to the football world but also to the sporting world and a certain Portuguese called Cristiano Ronaldo fits that category. The football superstar born in Madeira has been under the spotlight ever since his performance against Manchester United with Sporting in 2003 and now in 2020, he continues to find ways to keep himself competitive. The thing that has been the most surprising concerning the Juventus striker is how he has evolved over the years.
We tend to look at how the great man has gone from an exciting young prospect to a 5 time Ballan Dor winner today.
Sir Alex Ferguson usually gets it right when it comes to finding young prospects across the world. And boy he got it right with Ronaldo when his Manchester United team played against Sporting Lisbon.
Ronaldo got the crowd going basically ever since his debut against Bolton Wanderers. The Portuguese got Man of the match for his 30-minute cameo and United legend George Best termed Ronaldo as the “most exciting young prospect” that he has seen in years.
However, the Portuguese transformed from a “young prospect” to “the best in the League” in 3 years. A speculation filled World Cup 2006 performance against England saw Cristiano Ronaldo being booed across the entire Premier League.
However, this proved critical in Ronaldo’s breakthrough as he notched 20 goals for the first time in his career, was part of the Premier League Team Of The Year and won his first Premier League title in 2007.
What followed was something we are now very synonymous with the great man. Now it was a step from being the “Best in the League” to the “Best in the World” and he stepped up to the task beautifully.
The 2007/08 season saw Cristiano Ronaldo score a remarkable 42 goals for the season, 31 in the Premier League and ensure Manchester United do the double.
It was his first Champions League title, second Premier League title and his first Ballan Dor. He improved his goals per 90 minutes from 0.55 (2006/07) to 1.02 (2007/08), goals and assists per 90 minutes from 0.97 (2006/07) to 1.21 (2007/08).
After moving to the club which he always considered his “dream club”. Cristiano Ronaldo’s prime years elevated his numbers even further.
“He came to Manchester United and developed himself as a great footballer, so we are proud that we played a part in his career. And to get 6 years out of a boy when he comes at 17, I think we did well. Obviously he wanted to move to Real Madrid at some point in his career. We helped him on our way and there was no disloyalty because I got another year out of him when he wanted to go the previous year. So he went with our blessingCristiano Ronaldo’s former boss Sir Alex Ferguson describing his evolution and professionalism
The time of Real Madrid was when Lionel Messi (then Ballan D’or winner) understood that he has finally got a rival in La Liga. Cristiano Ronaldo elevated his shooting statistics as he went from 0.21 (Manchester United) to 0.29 (overall).
Up until 2009/10, Cristiano Ronaldo was a complete player. However, he was unable to match his ability with the scoring charts. When Jose Mourinho became Real Madrid manager, he deployed a counter-attacking system where Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria used to feed the Portuguese consistently. From June 2011 till May 2013, we saw Cristiano Ronaldo score 80 La Liga goals which was only 4 goals less than his overall Premier League account of 84.
The 2011/12 season saw the man score 60 goals. This was the first time where we saw him getting involved frequently like he did in his days at Manchester United and add goals to his ability to ensure that he matches Lionel Messi’s numbers season by season for being the best player in the world.
After Zinedine Zidane got appointed in 2016, Ronaldo’s overall involvement was fading because of his age. However, Zidane started to deploy Ronaldo more as a striker with Karim Benzema with the French striker doing more the work in the wing to feed the Portuguese.
As we can clearly see, the Portuguese sensation was playing more as a striker in his final years at Real Madrid. However, despite his declining dribbling ability, Cristiano Ronaldo’s off the ball movement became pivotal as he used to sneak behind the best defensive lines in the world in crucial stages to score pivotal goals for Real Madrid, especially in the Champions League.
His incredible goal-scoring performances down the years resulted in him scoring an incredible 92 Champions League goals from 2010 till 2018. These numbers were pivotal in Real Madrid winning 4 Champions League titles from 2014 till 2018.
Cristiano Ronaldo became the most expensive 30+-year-old footballer after his move to Serie A in 2018. The 2018/19 season saw his goal-scoring numbers greatly reduced from his Real Madrid days.
Even though these numbers would be great for most strikers, but it was a very lean year for the Portuguese’ standards as he scored 28 goals for the season.
In the 2019/20 season, under new manager Maurizio Sarri, his involvement became even more critical because the Italian manager relied heavily on ball possession in his style of play.
As we can clearly see, his involvement in the box got reduced because his overall involvement got increased. However, he was still able to find his goal-scoring form in 2020 as he scored in 11 consecutive Serie A games, an all-time record.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s influence in the building up was seen by the fact that his pass completion increased from 79.7% (2017/18) to 82.2% (2018/19) and 83.2% (2019/20).
Additionally, his passes in the final third improved from 773 (2017/18) to 1137 (2018/19) and 883 (2019/20) despite the fact that there are still 8 games left to play in the season. He also topped the Serie A charts in assists for the 2018/19 season. The covering of distance showed a massive difference from 9150m (2017/18) to 14775m (2018/19).
Cristiano Ronaldo truly has shown the world how to evolve as an athlete down the years. From a young prospect in Sporting Lisbon to the most complete player in the Premier League, the greatest Real Madrid goal scorer to an influential outlet in Juventus, the great Portuguese has played in multiple systems and flourished. As he is now in the twilight of his career, we all should cherish him playing before he brings down curtains to one of the greatest footballing careers of all time.