Is Ronaldo past his prime?

In his seventh season with Real Madrid, Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo has taken heavy criticism from the Press, which has on several occasions stated he hasn’t been at his best this year.

Ronaldo just turned 31 but with 41 goals, in all competitions, in 38 matches can we really say that he is actually past his prime? He certainly doesn’t think so as he commented after the derby with Atletico Madrid that “if everyone [in the team] was at my level, we might be leaders”. Cristiano later clarified that he meant his physical form as Madrid has been attacked by injuries all season.

Many experts believe that this would be his last year with Los Blancos, and if we look at his numbers we can understand why. Ronaldo hasn’t produced at the same level as his previous five years. In fact, at this moment this La Liga season only seems as good as his first year in Madrid.

Ronaldo has scored plenty – 28 in 30 La Liga matches is an amazing number. However, that’s just shy of one goal per game. Only in his first season at Santiago Bernabeu has he managed a lower production with 26 in 28 matches. In every other year he scored more goals than games he played, including last year where he scored on average 1.4 goals per match. He would also have quite a challenge to reach 40 La Liga goals with eight games to play, a number he managed in three previous campaigns at Madrid.

Also, the Portuguese hasn’t scored in 15 La Liga games this season, half the matches so far. Only in the 2010-11 season did Ronaldo fail to score in more matches, 16 out of 34. In his previous two years, Cristiano didn’t score in 10 and eight matches respectively. Also, he has scored two or more goals in seven matches. Only once before, in his first year, he scored two or more in fewer games (6), while in 2013-14 he also managed seven.

Ronaldo has only provided nine assists, compared to the 16 he provided last year. So far this has been the worst record by Cristiano in La Liga since his first year when he managed seven assists. He also manages a pass that leads to a teammate’s shot once every 61 minutes, six minutes worse than his previous mark in La Liga 2011-12.

Not only is he trending down in goals and assists, his participation in the game is diminishing as well. The Real Madrid star received on average a foul every 82 minutes this season [just above one a game]. His previous worse average was a foul received every 54 minutes. He is receiving 54% fewer fouls per 90 minutes compared to his previous worse and more than three times less than the first year he arrived at the club.

He also seems to dribble a lot less these days, as we see on the chart below [stats via Opta]. Without improving his success rate, he has dribbled almost two times less often than in his first year, a figure that has virtually declined every year but in 2013-14.

Last, but by no means least, Ronaldo’s shots and shot quality are also on decline. As Cristiano has transitioned to more of a No 9 role, as he reaches a certain age, it is interesting to see how he has behaved in the most defining factor of a striker, his shots. Despite passing less and dribbling less, Ronaldo hasn’t made it up with more goals or shots.

In fact, he is averaging 6.33 shots per game, lower than his Madrid career of 6.92 and the lowest of all seven seasons. He hasn’t improved his accuracy either – 44% shots on target is just above of his career average of 43% and virtually the same as the last four years. He is scoring every 6.78 shots or every 3.00 shots on target, only his fourth best marks in La Liga and both worse than his career average so far [6.26 and 2.67].

If all of these numbers are of any indication, it seems that Ronaldo’s best years are in the books already as well as, perhaps, his years dressed in white.