If time was inevitable and humans were not limited by its confines, one player we would gladly love to see play till the end of time will no doubt be Cristiano Ronaldo. Sadly, every good thing comes to an end and it would appear our ever-energetic forward is bowing to the test of time and can barely do anything about it.
From Manchester United to Real Madrid and now at Juventus, Ronaldo is that one name already on the starting lineup with no debate from anyone. And bar special occasions, he remains on the pitch for the full 90 minutes. Both for country and club. One of Ronaldo’s talents down the years has been to provide results against all odds and we can agree that even for a 34-year-old (in his position), he is still making performances a 26-year-old would dream of.
We were all hoping the Portuguese international would go on and play many more years but recent events have shown Ronaldo is almost at the final lap of his career. This narrative has clearly been highlighted in Juventus’ last two outings where the Portuguese international has seen a significant decrease in minutes available to him.
Juve broke the bank to land Ronaldo in the summer of 2018 and he initially repaid them with 28 goals (Transfermarkt) en route to a familiar Serie A title-winning campaign and disappointing exit in Europe.
Fast forward to his second season and there is evidence of a decline.
Six goals in 14 games (Transfermarkt), only one coming in his natural Champions League habitat, is contributing to a serious headache for Maurizio Sarri.
In the Bianconeri’s win against Milan, Ronaldo sulked as he was substituted for the second game in a row and walked straight down the tunnel, clearly unhappy at the decision.
Ronaldo was taken off in the 55th minute, his earliest substitution since he joined Juve at the start of last season and the first time he has been replaced twice in succession.
Sarri’s side eventually won the game courtesy of Ronaldo’s replacement, Paulo Dybala, who struck in the 77th minute.
Despite producing a lacklustre display, Ronaldo gave Sarri a dirty look, muttered something under his breath and walked straight down the tunnel.
Afterwards, though, Sarri insisted he understood why the Portuguese forward was annoyed and explained that an injury was behind the decision to take him off.
‘We must thank Ronaldo, because he made a sacrifice to be there at all tonight in a difficult situation,’ Sarri told Sky Sport Italia.
‘He did everything possible to play, but I saw he was not well and thought it best to take him off.
‘It’s only natural a player is going to be irritated to leave the pitch, especially when he worked so hard to be there.
‘Over the last month, he has had this little knee problem, he had a knock in training and it hurt the collateral ligament.
‘When he trains at high intensity or plays, it unbalances him, so he ends up overcompensating and it damages the calf and thigh muscles.
‘It is affecting his performances and he is not at his best at the moment.
Ronaldo also looked unhappy after being taken off during Wednesday’s Champions League match at Lokomotiv Moscow, although Sarri said it was to avoid risking injury as the 34-year-old had complained of knee and thigh problems.
The Guardian further reported that Ronaldo left the stadium before the final whistle on Sunday evening. Of course, reports started to fly around saying Ronaldo could be on his way out of Juventus due to lack of “game time” but a more appropriate perspective tells the story that time is running out for the Portuguese international – whether at Juventus or anywhere at all.
Age is telling on Ronaldo already
Before, things were very different. In 2015/16, he played every single minute of La Liga football until a muscle injury in late April with an additional 1,109 minutes accrued from the 1,110 he was available for in Europe (Transfermarkt).
In the following season, Ronaldo saw fewer minutes in La Liga but made up for it through Copa del Rey games as well as more minutes in the Champions League. He went on to finish the 2016/17 season with 4126 minutes as per the same source above.
In his final season at Madrid, Ronaldo saw yet another decrease in minutes played and finished the season with 3678 minutes. Lastly, his maiden season at Juventus saw him finish the season with his lowest minutes per season in a decade – 3646 minutes, which coincidentally tallied with last season being his lowest-scoring season in a decade as well.
It’s more than evident that Ronaldo is losing out more and more to the physical battle and his now recent struggles with injuries and fitness only tell a whole lot more on that. It remains to be seen just how much more Ronaldo has in the tank to keep going at the top level but what we must now come to terms with, sadly, is that the 34-year-old is at the close of his career – and it could indeed be the end of an era when he finally decides to hang his boots.