Cristiano Ronaldo’s seats made Manchester United even better. Will Portugal follow suit in the World Cup?

Cristiano Ronaldo played his 941st professional match last week in his minor tournament I tried to disguiseand in the house the assistant a Soviet sympathizer club From Unrecognized separatist state bordered by two Europe’s poorest countries.

Ronaldo, of course, never expected and never wanted his run down career to come this far, but here we go.

He was dueling with Sheriff Tiraspol on Thursday because of Manchester United The season is heading towards wreckage last monthRonaldo sat on the bench and immediately rebounded. The Red Devils roamed around Old Trafford in his absence, beating Liverpool, Southampton, Leicester City and Arsenal, and they epitomized the team’s success in modern football.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo was relegated to the Europa League and performed late in the game. Two months ago, he He requested a transfer indicating he was better than Man United; Now, it is clear that United – like Dozens of clubs that refused to sign Ronaldo this summer – Better without him.

So 37-year-old Ronaldo, in his 21st pro season, has had to start one final chapter he doesn’t want to write yet. The gap between his fame and his on-pitch influence widens as the week goes on. It has been seen as a burden and a burden by a sport that is increasingly overcoming it. His days among the elite in club game seem to have come and gone.

But in November, the club match will be suspended. The curtains will spread. A final stage will present itself.

And Ronaldo will come out to her, in his fifth World Cup, with one last chance to live up to one last huge occasion – unless Portugal decides they, too, are better off without their biggest star.

Ronaldo retreat

Cristiano Ronaldo has built the bulk of his legend by evolving from a brilliant winger to a ruthless killer in the penalty area. In his nine years at Real Madrid, he scored 310 of his 339 goals in open play from within the area. He scored 80 with his left foot and 70 with his head in all stages of offensive play against all kinds of opponents.

With all his glamor and showmanship, he became a relatively simple star, having simply mastered the most important football skills. At the head of the Real Madrid squad, he cut the tasks of the third degree from his group, honing the tasks of paramount importance, namely scoring. I’ve been shooting shots constantly. Since 2010, he has taken nearly 400 more of them than Lionel Messi and 900 more than Robert Lewandowski – the two players who are closest, though not at all close, to touching his tally, in Performance stats via ESPN.

Cristiano Ronaldo led Portugal for more than a decade, and in three World Cups. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Along the way, football began phasing out one-dimensional players. Despite this, Ronaldo’s core dimension remained unrivaled and therefore invaluable. This is what Juventus paid over $117 million for itAnd what Man United longed for. That’s why conventional wisdom remains Ronaldo is considered one of the five best players in the world until 2020and Top 10 players last year.

But as his early thirties descended into his mid-30s, Otherworldly production quietly regressed to elite production, and then to just very good production. His average goals-no penalty kicks-per-90 dropped from 0.90 at Real Madrid to 0.56 at Juventus. His 90 assists also dropped from .29 to .16 at Juventus, then to .08 last season at Man United.

That’s when the lack of everything else became glaring. over the past 365 days, According to FBref . dataCompared to his peers in the positions in the 98 clubs in Europe’s five major leagues, Ronaldo ranks 43 percent in completed dribbles, 32nd in assists, ninth percent in tackles, and at the bottom of the entire list in pressures.

It’s a combination of unwillingness and inability to pressure, which is why Manchester United boss Eric Ten Hag can’t use it. This is why the countless Champions League clubs he was offered did not want him. It’s one of the many reasons why Juventus and United got worse after his arrival.

The question now is whether Ronaldo’s squad, who he led for more than a decade, will try to pre-empt their decline by downplaying their role.

The answer is probably no.

“I have absolutely no concern about Ronaldo’s lack of time to play for Manchester United,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said last week. “I don’t think anyone has any doubts that Ronaldo is still very important to the national team.”

Why Ronaldo still leads Portugal

It is clear that Ronaldo still has qualities that 99% of clubs would welcome. He can still shoot the ball like everyone else. His anticipatory instincts are still elitist, even if his first step has slowed.

His drawback to his primary role in the Champions League is that the top 1% of clubs can recruit strikers who have the same qualities and many more. But the national teams can’t do that. Santos has to work with what he has. And what he has is a team without another real No. 9.

He has Diogo Jota, but he prefers to play Jota on the left wing.

He has Joao Felix, but Felix would rather play as a second striker, under someone like Ronaldo.

He has Andre Silva, but Silva only scored 11 goals in 40 Bundesliga matches with RB Leipzig. Santos Silva has not even called up for Portugal’s most recent training camp, the last before the World Cup.

Santos will ride with Ronaldo because he has no alternative, and also because his system will hide some of Ronaldo’s flaws. Coordinated high pressure is rarely required. It is much more conservative than Ten Hag, and represents a tacit acknowledgment that international football is often less tied to systems or patterns and more to moments.

Ronaldo, despite all his faults, remains momentarily charming. He’s an individual who can revive an old game, and that’s what World Cups often call for.

“Cristiano has always been Cristiano,” 22-year-old Felix said last month in a Zoom phone call with American reporters. “Even if he doesn’t play for the club – he plays for the national team, it’s always different.”