On a Thursday night in Cyprus, the end finally appeared. It wasn’t the end of the match or game day that was the most intriguing, but the end of one player. Cristiano Ronaldo has finally met his end in the European top leagues.
An all time great, just not as good as his Argentine nemesis, Ronaldo has delivered some of the sport’s most iconic moments. However, this season has made one thing strikingly clear, his career at thee top is now over.
In retrospect, Ronaldo’s return to Manchester should have lit off an alarm in everyone’s head. A few years removed from being at the top of Europe, the whole world should have wanted him. Why would one of the Serie A’s top scorers in the season prior only find the dumpster fire of Manchester to take him in?
Like the countless failed reboots in both film and TV, it’s past its time and it’s Old Yeller time. In a dream world, for his fans, Ronaldo should have ridden off into the sunset with another trophy, Now, he’s a shell of his former self, barely playing for a United side in the Europa League.
Unlike his rival Messi, who’s been able to keep his career going, it feels like Ronaldo has finally flamed out. Perhaps it’s time for him to consider a move to a lower top flight or hang up the boots.
Like a lot of reboots over the past half decade, there is a lot of novelty and fun at the beginning only to be replaced with despair towards the end. Ronaldo’s career since leaving Spain has featured both an Italian and original reboot.
After a few seasons of great individual success, Ronaldo’s time with Juventus was over. Despite the forward’s efforts, Juventus regressed in every season. The former Italian giants saw themselves go from Champions League contenders to round of 16 fodder.
To be fair, Ronaldo’s move to Turin was awkward from the start. Juventus was already a successful side that now needed to incorporate the mercurial talent. While he wasn’t a total success for Juve, he was a massive draw for the Serie A that desperately needed superstar talent.
When it became clear that Juve were done with the Ronaldo experiment, the Portuguese star looked to the rest of Europe. Well, most of Europe rebuffed his advances and he was left to decide between the two Manchester sides. In one of their best moves ever, City turned him down, leaving only United there for him.
A dream return to the club where he became a star quickly became a nightmare, as United went into a tailspin. Ronaldo had a great individual season, much like at Juve, but it was empty stats on a bad team. Think of Kobe in any of the years after Gasol left.
This season has somehow been even worse and Ronaldo now finds himself likely to be moved in January. In a way, the World Cup will be his last chance to show that he can still play at an elite level.
Perhaps, like other talent goal machines, a sad decline was always going to be in store for the iconic number 7. At this point, he is a husk of the Madrid machine and is only being sent onto the pitch out of pity.
At his peak, Ronaldo’s brilliance was based on a combination of elite skills with immense physical gifts. He could just as easily beat a defender with a dribble as he could leap over taller defenders for a header. These gifts were what made him such an elite goal scoring machine.
Currently averaging 0 goals per 90, it’s become clear that he just can’t give teams the necessary production. If he can’t score for a team at an elite level, Ronaldo is not a truly valuable player.
Across his career, Ronaldo has never been an elite playmaker, never averaging more than .5 assist per 90. However, this never mattered when he could just bang in goals for fun. Now, when he can’t really score anymore, he just acts as a traffic cone up top.
It is natural for athletes to regress as they age, unless they’re Lebron James, as their bodies can no longer deal with the intensity of modern sport. His speed and touch have gone and without that, he just can’t be effective on the pitch. Ronaldo does seem to be suffering from this, no matter how much he spends, he can’t outrun father time.
Comparison is the thief of joy, but Messi has aged really well in comparison. That’s, in part, due to the type of player Messi is. A pure creator like him can move deeper and be effective, but it’s just not the same for a physical forward.
Ronaldo fans will say that there is still an elite player in there that just needs the right team. But that player, like tears in the rain, is gone.
For well over a decade, Ronaldo terrified backlines across Europe with his elite mix of physicality and skill. Now that he is well out of his prime, he is a walking husk of a former great. Meaning that it’s finally time to say goodbye to one of the best to ever play the game.