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Is This the Start of the End for Ronaldo?

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The End is nigh?

Cristiano Ronaldo is considered by many to be the greatest player – or a close second – in the history of football. Often compared to Lionel Messi, the Portuguese forward is certainly in the conversation. Ronaldo started his career at Sporting Lisbon before moving to Manchester United as the most expensive teenager in English football history at that time. Of course, he excelled at United as Ronaldo helped the Red Devils win three Premier League titles and a UEFA Champions League before leaving for Real Madrid. His transfer fee of £80 million was the then-world record for a player – and it proved to be a bargain.

With the Galacticos, Ronaldo won two La Liga championships and an outrageous four Champions League trophies en route to becoming the celebrated club’s all-time record goalscorer. He joined Juventus in 2018, where Ronaldo has continued his goal-scoring exploits. However, he is clearly at the tail end of his illustrious career – is this the beginning of the end for Cristiano Ronaldo?

busy schedule

Now 35 years of age, Ronaldo must be looking at the upcoming football schedule for Juventus with some disdain – even with his immense athletic characteristics. The Italian giants, who are hoping to secure their ninth consecutive title in 2019-20, must play 12 league games in under 6 weeks, averaging a match every 4 days.

This is an obscene amount of football, but soon after the Serie A antics are over, Ronaldo and The Old Lady are back in action as they aim to overturn a one-goal deficit in the UEFA Champions League against Lyon which is scheduled to commence in early-August.

Ultimately, this means that Ronaldo will have a shortened period of rest as pre-season will be kicking off soon after as the 2020-21 season gets underway. Cristiano Ronaldo appears to be superhuman, but he will need a truly Herculean effort for his veteran body to survive without injury.

"looked average"

Cristiano Ronaldo has been in scintillating form for Juventus in 2019-20, tallying 26 goals in all competitions, including a remarkable 22 goals in 23 league appearances. However, the forward has been noticeably poorer on more frequent occasions this season. After a quiet display against AC Milan in the Coppa Italia semi-final – the first game back for Juventus and Ronaldo – former-Italy striker Luca Toni stated that Ronaldo “looked average” as he missed a penalty despite Juventus advancing to the next round.

Ronaldo struggled again as Juventus lost in the Coppa Italia final to Napoli on penalties, and he was promptly criticised by media and fans alike, with Toni claiming that the Portuguese legend could not even dribble past a player. Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport stated that Ronaldo was the worst player on the pitch in the final, which was held in Rome, whilst his manager Maurizio Sarri acknowledged that Ronaldo was lacking sharpness.

Ronaldo was sluggish again as his team got back to winning ways in a 2-0 win over Bologna, but found the back of the net through his 23rd minute penalty.

Does the MLS await?

With Juventus failing to secure the silverware Ronaldo desires, he has been consistently linked with a move away. The odds-on favourite appears to be Inter Miami (2/1), which is the new MLS club backed by David Beckham. If Ronaldo was to move to Miami, it would truly suggest that this is the winding down of a truly exceptional career; the MLS is considered to be the league that superstars join when their career is heading towards its end.

The quality of life is far higher, the standard of football is far lower, and there is generally less pressure to succeed. Miami or Los Angeles appear to be the most likely landing spot for Ronaldo given their glitzy status, and would give the Portuguese superstar the ultimate introduction for his ‘CR7’ brand into American mainstream media as his career draws to a close a la Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the greatest players of all-time, but his career must be winding down soon. He is 35 years old, but the statistics don’t lie: he has 22 league goals in 23 appearances! The true test for his veteran body will be how the Portuguese forward handles not only the end of this season – which already has very little time for recovery between matches – but also how Ronaldo can physically cope with the short break that leads into next season, a season that will ultimately climax with Euro 2021.

This period of almost non-stop football as a result of the unplanned break could well spell the end of a legendary career – if he does get through it unscathed, then I think it is time to question whether Ronaldo is truly human at all.

By Andrew Gamble