It’s very easy to mock Cristiano Ronaldo. There’s something about his persona that just makes him very, well, mockable.
Actually, there are a few things. His vanity of comical proportions, his tunnel-visioned selfishness, his habit of being viciously fouled by fierce blades of grass inside the penalty area and his regular toddler tantrums all leave him wide open to criticism, abuse and, yes, mockery.
And so, at times like these when he is failing to produce his usual goal per game scoring ratio, there is never any shortage of people willing to wade in with brutal and often gleeful condemnation.
Another blank in Saturday night’s dull derby draw against Atletico means that Ronaldo has still only scored one league goal for Real Madrid so far this season, deep into November. And that is perfect fuel to the fire for those many among us who are always happy to have a good old laugh at CR7’s expense.
Enjoy it while you can, though, because you know who will end up having the last laugh? Cristiano Ronaldo.
Despite statistical evidence to the contrary, Ronaldo is not playing badly at the moment. Far from it – he was, by some distance, the biggest goal threat during Saturday night’s goalless draw at the Wanda Metropolitano.
The longer the game went on, the more it looked like the breakthrough, if there was to be one, would come from Ronaldo, who finished the game with seven shots on goal – more than double the tally of any other player.
Two of those were free-kicks which home keeper Jan Oblak did well to repel, another was a half-chance snapshot which he dragged wide, and two more were powerful angled drives which were brilliantly blocked by young left-back Lucas Hernandez before they had the chance to reach Oblak, who might not have been able to do much about them anyway.
Ronaldo also created perhaps his team’s best chance on the night, unselfishly (see that?!) playing a one-two on the edge of the box with Toni Kroos, whose shot squirmed into the side-netting.
Does that sound like the night’s work of a player who, at the age of 32, is past it or in terrible form?
Of course not. And when you look at the further facts of Ronaldo’s season so far, it becomes more and more apparent that even during this supposed ‘slump’ in form he is still playing at a level which most forwards would be more than happy with.
For starters, it should be remembered that Ronaldo missed the first four league games through suspension. Then, bear in mind that he has scored six goals in four games in the Champions League, including a brilliant brace in his team’s 3-1 win at Borussia Dortmund, probably their best performance of the season.
Next, let’s note that he also netted in the Spanish Super Cup against Barcelona. Oh, and there have also been four goals in four games for Portugal.
So when you take into account competitions other than La Liga, Ronaldo’s paltry record of ‘one goal all season’ is suddenly transformed into 12 goals in 18 games – a ratio which pretty much any player in the world would be more than happy with.
Another number worth bearing in mind is 55: not the driving limit in the USA, but the number of shots he has fired towards goal so far this season. The fact that only one of those has gone in really is quite perplexing, but it shows that he is still presenting a serious goal threat which, in any serious analysis, is the main test of a forward’s effectiveness.
Indeed, his average of 6.9 shots per game is higher than any other player in La Liga – even Lionel Messi, who has found the target on 11 more occasions, has only averaged 6 shots per game.
Of course, this lack of accuracy/poor conversion rate could easily serve as further ammunition for those who wish to criticise Ronaldo which, as already acknowledged, can be a rather fun pastime.
But does anyone really think that Ronaldo’s next 55 shots will result in only one goal? If you do, you’ll be in a small minority. And you’ll be wrong, because Ronaldo will, without any doubt, start scoring on a regular basis very soon.
He’ll make absolutely sure of that – it’s just part of his charm.
Ramos defended the strength of Real’s squad after Ronaldo appeared to suggest after the Champions League defeat to Tottenham that it had been weakened by the summer departures of Alvaro Morata, Danilo, Fabio Coentrao, Pepe and James Rodriguez.
Zidane was asked about the duo ahead of Saturday’s derby against Atletico Madrid and he told a press conference, reported by www.realmadrid.com: “One of them saying one thing, and the other, another, that’s for you to discuss.
“We’re relaxed on the inside and we’re only thinking about tomorrow’s game.
“Sergio is very smart and he can say whatever he likes.
“The same goes for Cristiano. They’re bright guys, they’ve been together a long time and have won a lot.
“Every now and then, for one to think one thing, and the other to say something else, it’s not a problem. Things are resolved on the inside. There is no problem between Cristiano and Sergio. If you think there’s issues between them, you’re mistaken.
“It’s part of life, and football, and if they’re voicing their opinions that just shows they’re alive.”
Ramos told Cadena SER last week: “I don’t agree with him that the squad is weaker, it seems to be an opportunistic opinion.”
Since signing a lucrative new six-year contract with Madrid over a year ago, Bale, 28, has featured in just 24 matches as an ankle operation last November was followed by calf strains and now a thigh problem, which is expected to keep him out for another month.
“Bale breaks down again,” splashed the front page of Madrid sports daily AS.
Both AS and rival publication Marca calculated that Bale has until now missed 73 Madrid games through injury since joining the Spanish giants for a then world record €100.7million from Tottenham Hotspur in 2013.
Indeed, including Bale’s bumper salary, AS believe his 159 games for the club have cost Madrid €1.06million a match.
Bale’s time in Madrid has not been short of success. In four full seasons, he has lifted the Champions League three times and scored 70 goals.
His highs include Real’s crucial second goal to see off Atletico Madrid in the 2014 Champions League final, netting from the spot in a nervous penalty shootout against the same opponents in the final two years later, and a memorable solo run and finish to beat Barcelona in the 2014 Copa del Rey final.
However, for many in Madrid those moments have been far too fleeting for the club’s record purchase.
Bale admitted to “taking tablets to get through games and training” last season, but, even then, his lack of fitness meant he only made a cameo appearance of the bench for the final 13 minutes as Real romped to a 12th European Cup win in his home city of Cardiff in June.
In his absence over the past year, home favourites Isco and Marco Asensio have starred and it would cause serious disquiet in the stands and the dressing room at the Bernabeu if they were to be squeezed out to make room for Bale when fit.
For a long time untouchable, the ‘BBC’ front three of Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo haven’t played a single minute together so far this season.
“Protected by the hierarchy since he arrived as part of the non-negotiable BBC, he hasn’t made himself important,” AS added in their analysis.
“In fact, players like Isco or Asensio with their performances continually put his place in the team in doubt.”
Just 15 months on from carrying his country to the semi-finals of Euro 2016, Bale also had to watch on in agony from the stands as Wales’ attempts to qualify for a first World Cup since 1958 fell short last month.
As patience wears thin in Madrid, the potential for a return to England’s Premier League, where Bale was twice Players’ Player of the Year with Spurs, remains a strong possibility.
However, as the Spanish media counted the cost of not cashing in on the 28-year-old, there is a question mark over whether even the cash-rich United would part with up to the €100million Madrid spent on Bale for a player who has struggled just to get on the pitch for the past year.