Should Real Madrid get ready to say goodbye to Cristiano Ronaldo?

VIGO, SPAIN - JANUARY 07: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid looks on during the La Liga match between Celta de Vigo and Real Madrid at Estadio de Balaidos on January 7, 2018 in Vigo, Spain. (Photo by fotopress/Getty Images)
VIGO, SPAIN - JANUARY 07: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid looks on during the La Liga match between Celta de Vigo and Real Madrid at Estadio de Balaidos on January 7, 2018 in Vigo, Spain. (Photo by fotopress/Getty Images) /

Every year, Madridistas have to discuss the inevitable departure of Cristiano Ronaldo. Is now the right time for Real Madrid to start saying goodbye?

“Nothing gold can stay,” Robert Frost opined, confronted with the inevitable passing of time which no mortal being can avoid. Frost probably didn’t have Cristiano Ronaldo in mind when he wrote the poem, but the point holds nonetheless.

Ronaldo has enjoyed a renaissance over the past few years. As his form dipped due to injuries towards the end of 2014, many thought that The Dark Invader had experienced the twilight of his career. Ronaldo’s persistence began to take a toll on his resilience, and the forward who always wanted to play every minute of every match began to look like he was on the downward slope to a Real Madrid exit. Perhaps a stint in China, or the MLS for the aging Galactico, but more years with Los Blancos looked a task too far.

Well, if there’s anything Ronaldo loves in life, it’s proving the haters wrong. Ronaldo went on to push his Portugal team to victory in the Euros, Real Madrid to two more Champions League titles, and back-to-back Ballon D’or trophies in 2016 and 2017. Not only was Ronaldo not slowing down, it looked like he might actually become more lethal with age.

Ronaldo absolutely tore up the late stages of the Champions League last season, dismantling every team that was thrown in front of him. It’s hard to blame manager Zinedine Zidane and Club President Florentino Perez for trusting that their main-man would be fighting fit for at least a few more years to come. After all, Cristiano Ronaldo has long stated that he would like to retire at Real Madrid at the age of 40.

But now, serious question marks have begun to emerge surrounding Ronaldo’s future at the club. Ronaldo has been having one of his worst seasons in La Liga since arriving at Madrid.

Ronaldo has often been known as a goalscorer above all else. Even when every other part of his game is going wrong, you can always trust CR7 to bang one into the back of the net. Not so, this season. Ronaldo’s goal tally has dried up. And it’s not even like he’s lacking opportunities to score. Last season, Ronaldo was praised for his efficiency in front of goal. This season, he’s being ranked one of the least efficient strikers in Europe.

Something is amiss for Ronaldo, which means the inevitable questions about his eventual departure from Madrid are only going to grow louder with the passing of time. The Express just reported that Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes is beginning to lay the groundwork for an eventual transfer to PSG. As, reporting on a story from El Chiringuito, suggested that Real Madrid have received three offers to buy Ronaldo, with Chelsea as one of the potential destinations. Graham Ruthven has even decided to go with the spicy hot take that “Cristiano Ronaldo is finished at the top level” of football.

Should Real Madrid consider finally saying goodbye to their mercurial forward? Has the time finally come for Madridistas to begin preparing for life without Cristiano Ronaldo?

I think it all depends on Ronaldo’s attitude going forward the rest of this season. What made Ronaldo of 2016-2017 a worthy Ballon d’Or recipient was his clutch performances late in the hunt for the Champions League and La Liga title. Ronaldo didn’t care that he wasn’t going to get the Pichichi, or that he didn’t even travel with the team to face La Liga’s bottom dwellers. Late in the season, when all the chips were down, Ronaldo showed up against the biggest teams in Europe, and lead his team to a double.

Ronaldo regularly goes through periods of slumps. Oftentimes those slumps come for Ronaldo in January. He also went through a brief slump at the beginning of last season after recovering from an injury sustained at the Euro finals.

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But time and time again Ronaldo has adapted his game, made small changes here or there, and come through for Madrid when they needed a hero. It’s way too early to start talking about Cristiano’s decline, when he could still put the team on his back and carry Madrid to a Champions League title. We’ve seen him do it before.

The key question will be how Ronaldo mentally works himself out of this current dip in form. Ronaldo has always had a bit of a petulant streak about him. Usually he works his way out of it with goals, but there is always the risk that it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There are good reasons to think Cristiano will soon turn this bad patch around. For a good chunk of this season, the eye test has not shown a Cristiano in crisis. Ronaldo’s play hasn’t been particularly bad; his finishing has been poor. That could begin to even out over the course of the season. And he’s never been the best at tracking back, something that’s been particularly evident this season. But at times, we’ve seen glimpses of the scintillating form of which we know Ronaldo is capable.

I think one thing is for sure: Ronaldo’s game is going to have to continue to adapt. One thing Ronaldo has been missing this season is a partner with tons of pace. For all of Benzema’s admirable qualities, speed is definitely not one. Nor is Isco necessarily the speediest player. With Ronaldo getting up there in the years, and his body unable to engage in the sprinting it used to, Madrid have to rely on other players for pace.

For a brief moment at the beginning of the season, Ronaldo and Bale were working wonders as the spearhead of Madrid’s attack, running onto balls distributed by Isco. What Ronaldo no longer has in speed, Bale more than makes up for. Bale provides another outlet for Madrid’s attack that doesn’t make Ronaldo do all the difficult work up top. Bale also provides a bit of cover for the defenders, as he is able to more easily track back. Keeping Gareth Bale healthy may allow Zidane to employ the BIC formation to take advantage of Bale, helping Ronaldo along as well.

Real Madrid’s fans should definitely confront the fact that one day, Cristiano Ronaldo will no longer be a Real Madrid player. It’s completely plausible that this could indeed be his last season in a Real Madrid shirt.

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But you simply cannot say from the half season of evidence that we have thus far that Cristiano is finished. One does not simply go from scoring consecutive Champions League hat tricks to a washed up has-been over the course of six months.

Ronaldo still has much more to give. But how much of that time is reserved for Real Madrid remains to be seen.

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