Fading into significance

Cristiano Ronaldo's on-pitch demeanour has been changing.
Cristiano Ronaldo's on-pitch demeanour has been changing. / EFE
  • A move away from the Bernabéu could be the best scenario for for the CR7 brand and Real Madrid

It's one of those phrases I never thought I'd be using as a commentator: “Ronaldo seems to be having a crash of confidence!”

Let's face it, there isn't a sportsman on earth with greater self-esteem, and rightly so given his incredible achievements and enviable athletic looks.

This is the current World Player of the Year, a phenomenal footballer who has scored more goals than games he's played (for Real Madrid) and some would argue he is the greatest ever. He would certainly lead that argument!

The camera captured his face last week in the game against Villarreal; there was a perplexed expression.

Normally when a chance is squandered he accuses a team mate or blames the groundsman.

These days it is becoming more frequent that he only has himself to blame.

It's like a wizard whose spells don't work; he's not turning defenders into mice anymore!

Decline is too strong a word, he's just beginning to lose his super-human powers and is in danger of having to face the fact that he is human after all.

Don't get me wrong, he's still phenomenal as his statistics of nine goals in six Champions League appearances confirm; it is just that he's now unable to return the absurd figures in domestic football; it's four goals in fourteen Liga games.

When he peaks he is incredible, but on an average day he's... well... average.

To give credit to Ronaldo he's always insisted that football comes first and there is no player in greater physical condition.

He's controlled this with regime and diet. He's often vowed to play until he's 40. The problem is that he can't do anything to reverse the dulling of reflexes.

Is he finished? No. Is he in decline? Marginally. What happens next?

Ronaldo has seen other far less celebrated footballers grab the headlines with transfers of ridiculous propositions and his reaction has always been to seek greater wealth at Real Madrid.

As he looks jealously at those with the best years ahead and astronomical wage packets, his reaction has been to ask for more. He's always received it.

The sad truth is that he is no longer the solo artist at Real Madrid. He needs to be part of the band, it's time for someone else to take the spotlight.

There hasn't been a true Galáctico signing since Gareth Bale in 2014 as Zinedine Zidane has preferred to nurture and develop young talent. This plan has worked but now it needs revising.

The team has grown complacent and needs refreshing. The club may have to go back to plan A and start breaking transfer records.

Bale may be able to step forwards after a troubled year and there are signs that he is getting back to his old self. He needs help, though.

It's clear that another new icon is required and the club needs an injection of wide-eyed enthusiasm.

Managers all over Europe should be locking up their key assets as the likes of Harry Kane, Firmino, Mo Salah, Robert Lewandowski and even Neymar are assessed for suitability.

As for Ronaldo, his knee jerk reaction to demand more remuneration is likely to be dismissed in Madrid.

I was critical of David Beckham when he packed his designer cases and headed to Los Angeles just after his 32nd birthday, after all he was still performing at the highest level.

Beckham had the vision to realise that if his football was to be truly scrutinised then he was no longer the player on the posters and that wasn't good for the brand.

Ronaldo may have to follow Beckham's path to a new kingdom or the brand may slip, affecting sales of fragrances, sun glasses and whatever else supplements the football income.