Cristiano Ronaldo: The conversion from winger to striker


In recent years, astronomical developments have taken place in the playing style of Cristiano Ronaldo. Transforming from a mercurial, goal scoring winger, cutting inside to shoot, aiming to outmanoeuvre to a supreme goalscorer, who’s superb movement, timing of runs and footballing brain have allowed Ronaldo to acclimatise in a new role. As a result, Ronaldo is as ever a huge benefit for Real Madrid.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s importance to Real Madrid in the goalscoring department, as well as Ronaldo’s own desire to score goals on a consistent basis have led to a change in the way Ronaldo scores goals. Having scored at least 33 goals in all of his seven seasons with Los Blancos, Ronaldo is the primary source of goals.

What exemplifies Ronaldo’s increase in attacking instinct, is that rather than receiving the ball in deeper areas of midfield, and aiming to create a chance through breaking down the opposition defence, Ronaldo now makes off ball runs from the left hand side of the “BBC” (Bale, Benzema and Cristiano) front line. As a result, Ronaldo can receive the ball further forward, possibly in a greater amount of space, and have more effect on the outcome of chances. Ronaldo spends less time within a wide midfield position, which leaves him exposed to markers (yet, this attracts defenders, and Ronaldo’s runs take markers out of the game completely). This in itself means Ronaldo is further forward consistently throughout encounters, leading to the idea that he may now be a no.9.

Furthermore, the change in how the Real Madrid attacker receives the ball, leads to less time being spent with possession. Cristiano Ronaldo became synonymous for his flamboyant wing-play, able to beat a defender in an array of ways; trickery, using pace to good effect and also continuity with either right or left full-back. Excellent performances earned Ronaldo a free role within both Manchester United and Real Madrid side, with a licence to roam across the attacking third. While with Manchester United, Ronaldo was guided by both legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson, and established coach Rene Meulensteen, improving all areas of his game in order to become the complete attacking force

Cristiano Ronaldo predominantly played as a winger for Manchester United. But along with Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez, Ronaldo helped form one of European football’s most fearsome front lines, where each player exchanged positions in order to confuse and disfigure the structure of the opposition defence, while also maintaining the same attacking functions.

During the latter part of his time with United, Ronaldo started in a centre-forward position more often, and was once again the fulcrum of Manchester United’s attack. As a centre-forward, Ronaldo was able to attack the heart of the opposition defence, and drop into midfield to receive the ball.

This can be credited as a big change in Ronaldo’s role in a team. While with Real Madrid, Ronaldo has played as both a wide player and a central striker, with Ronaldo playing as a Striker alongside Gonzalo Higuain during his debut season. Both Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti however deployed Ronaldo as a left-winger.

While with Manchester United, Ronaldo was at times criticised for his lack of defensive work, not assisting the full back while the opposition were attacking. In sheer contrast, Ronaldo has been highlighted for his tracking back while with Los Blancos, most notably during the 1-2 El Clasico victory (March 2016).

However, since the significance of goal scoring has increased, Ronaldo has become less significant on the ball. This may be seen as a decline in Ronaldo’s career, having less direct influence on the respective teams attacking buildup, perhaps less of a “complete attacker”. But it is in fact a tactical masterpiece on the Portugal captains behalf. Ronaldo’s age and change in approach over the years have perhaps resulted in a lack of long distance running with the ball.

Regardless of this, Ronaldo’s increase in maturity, as well as excellent movement have allowed Ronaldo to develop. Still deployed on the left hand side, Ronaldo’s timing of diagonal runs into the opposition penalty area means that he loses the marker easily, and is able to be found by a teammate. The connection between Ronaldo and his teammates expresses Ronaldo’s overall improvement as a team player.

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Cristiano Ronaldo has the ability to holding onto the ball to allow teammates into play.
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The comparisons between Cristiano Roanldo, and FC Barcelona’s Neymar, showcase that Neymar has much more involvement in his respective team-up, as well as completing more take ons. Yet, Ronaldo is the greater goalscorer, which also exemplifies the larger significance goals have on the Portuguese’s game.

The changes in the playing style of Cristiano Ronaldo are evident, having occurred for a variety of reasons; changes in manager, a greater player considering tactical changes and age (could this have an even bigger impact; eventually becoming an “out and out” goal poacher?). However, it is still difficult to decide which position the Real Madrid star really is. Ronaldo even with the steady decline in impact, does still retain the fantastic ability to take on defenders. As a result of the consistent diagonal runs, could Ronaldo be titled as an inverted left winger? Or because of the significance of goals in his game is Ronaldo a target man?

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