None for 60: Isn’t it about time someone else had a go, Cristiano?

2 min read

There is not a shred of doubt to anyone that is remotely clued up about football in this fact: Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the greatest to ever play the game. Whether or not you believe him to be sitting pretty at the top of that pedestal – ahead of Messi, Pele, Maradonna and the blossoming Mbappe – or prefer any of the aforementioned names in your “best ever” category, it is an inadmissible that CR7’s name is at the very least present around the top table and will be for the remainder of history. 

With a career spanning over two decades and a CV featuring four Premier League titles; an FA Cup triumph, no less than five Champions Leagues, two La Ligas and a European Championship accolade (amongst plenty of others), whilst playing for some of the world’s most esteemed clubs in the shape of Sporting CP, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus, few will ever achieve what the Portugal captain has in his 39 years on earth. To obtain even 1 percent of his achievements would be good going for us mere mortals. 

At almost 40, Ronaldo is still leading the line for his country at the Euros this summer, the sixth time he has done so since making his senior international debut back in 2003 – aged 18. He looks no less the athlete as he has throughout those previous tournaments, however father time waits for no one. He may provide leniencies, but nobody is exempt from their years bearing fruit eventually. 

To say that this is happening to Ronaldo at Euro 2024 would be unfair. Whilst his press has diminished and his off-ball movement has minimised – it has been for some time now – there have been glimpses of the player we all grew to be astonished by throughout the previous 20 years. For instance, he has created six big chances for others in the final third, behind only Bernardo Silva out of the Portugal squad.

Indeed, over the years, one such attribute that distinguished Ronaldo best was his ability from dead ball situations. It felt as though almost weekly we would be subjected to the spikey-haired whippet dipping and swerving the ball into the top-corner from all sorts of angles and distances, as United’s dominance in the top-flight matched his own personal achievements. 

The six-time Ballon d’Or winner carried this legacy on when he joined Spanish giants Real Madrid in 2009, though as his career has deepened, those talents seem to have waned. Such a definitive summarisation has been highlighted at this tournament in Germany, where Ronaldo has started all four of Portugal’s games but yielded an open-play goal-return of none. It has not been for a lack of trying, either. The Al-Nassr forward has taken more shots at goal than any other player at Euro 2024 with 20 – five more than the next highest player in Kai Havertz. 

For the first time in his international career, Ronaldo ended the group stage phase without finding the net and after seeing his penalty saved in the last-16 clash with Slovenia, that unwanted run continued. It must be said that his ability to pick himself up and dust himself down to convert one of three shootout penalties was yet another example of his exemplary steeliness – the sort we have become so accustomed to over the years. 

Credit: Sky Sports

Ronaldo’s inability to convert a free-kick will be a particularly glaring concern for the former Juventus striker, though, and one which will no doubt irk him beyond belief. One scored in his previous 60 attempts at major tournaments is a far cry from the tally we witnessed during his time in the Premier League, where he thudded a total of 12 in across his two stints at Old Trafford (one of those coming during his return). In Madrid, he netted 20 goals from free-kicks, as per Goal.

There were another four free-kicks squandered during the penalty shootout win against Slovenia on Monday evening, with Ronaldo standing over each of them. For so long he has been the main man each time he steps onto the pitch but with France standing between A Seleção’s hopes of reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2024 and such high stakes riding on Friday’s fixture, Ronaldo – one of the sporting world’s undeniable greats – should potentially start to to think about exhibiting some selflessness and maybe, just maybe, let somebody else have a go. 

It is not like Portugal are short of players with above average capabilities from dead ball situations, is it? Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva and, should he play, Ruben Neves all possess a tremendous free-kick and should be afforded the opportunity to take one given Ronaldo’s unconvincing record in recent years. 

Unlikely to happen, of course, but the rationale would dictate that it’s worth giving a go, even just once.