Real Time Analytics

Cristiano Ronaldo Is Still Real Madrid’s Lead Man

(Photo via Chris Putnam / Barcroft Media)

A slow start to Ronaldo’s season has lead many to look at Gareth Bale as Real Madrid’s best player–not so fast, my friend!

Often feverishly backed as one of the best players in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo is now being questioned as to whether or not he is even the best player on his team.

The emergence of winger Gareth Bale after his world record transfer (since broken by Paul Pogba of Manchester United) does not threaten Rondaldo’s spot in the starting 11, but it does put one of soccer’s greatest players in an interesting position. Though Bale endured a torrid start to life in Spain’s capital, he is now being talked about as Madrid’s best player, especially after the brief absence of an injured Ronaldo at the start of the season. However, although Bale is a mightily talented player, he still does not match Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid.

This season, Bale was lifted by the aforementioned injury to the Portuguese star, one that he suffered in the final of Euro 2016. The Welshman has featured in two more La Liga matches than Ronaldo often as a focal point of the Real attack, especially before Ronaldo’s return. However, even with the 176-minute advantage in playing time Bale hasn’t done all too much more than the winger opposite him, boasting three goals and one assist to Ronaldo’s two of each.

The main argument against Ronaldo is the age factor. Bale is still in his prime years at age 27, while the former Manchester United man is 31 and will turn 32 in February. His injury and slow return to action didn’t help his cause, but that certainly does not take away from his ability or output.

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Above is Ronaldo, below is Bale. The Euros are not a big part of this argument, but they only further the point. Aside from La Liga goals, Cristiano Ronaldo is bettering Bale in Champions League goals and assists, La Liga assists, shots per game, and average fouls drawn per game across all competitions. Bale is absolutely doing his part for Madrid, but is not topping Ronaldo by most measures.

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It seems as if people see Bale’s improvement in a Madrid shirt and elect to couple that with a decline for Ronaldo. However, for most players, especially one of Ronaldo’s caliber, that decline comes slowly, if at all. Take Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney, a former teammate of Cristiano Ronaldo. Also 31 years old, Rooney is enduring a rough few years, and his statistics show that.

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Rooney’s creative influence since 2013/14 has clearly waned, and the statistics above prove it. On the other hand, Ronaldo has not yet shown a decline, and if he did, it would likely happen over time like Rooney’s.

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Other than his outlier Ballon d’Or winning year in 2014/15, Ronaldo’s production has remained rather constant. Players of his caliber do not suddenly slump, especially when surrounded by the talent Real Madrid has as Champions League winners in two of the past three seasons. The only reason for a drastic drop in production for a player like Cristiano Ronaldo would be injury (which has possibly held him back even when playing this season). If fully fit, Ronaldo can certainly be expected to bounce back to the standards of recent seasons.

Again, this is no slight on Bale–he is a magnificent player, and one certain to take up a role similar to Ronaldo’s if the star were to move on from Madrid. But Ronaldo is in no decline, and is still Real’s go-to guy. His Ballon d’Or candidacy this year only perpetuates that notion.

Bale’s production has consistently improved for Real Madrid since he joined in 2013. He is one of there most important attackers now, and will be for the foreseeable future.

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However, Cristiano Ronaldo has proven time and time again that he is alongside Lionel Messi in the argument for the world’s best player now, and is even among the best in history. Bale is up among the best five or 10 in the world too, but neither his reputation or his statistics match up to those of Ronaldo, even in a sluggish start for the Portuguese international. Bale will continue to play his part at the Santiago Bernabeu, but Ronaldo will continue to be their best and most important player.

Edited by Jeremy Losak, Julian Boireau.

Cristiano Ronaldo has the Real Madrid record for most goals scored in a season across all competitions in 2014/15. How many did he score?
Created 10/28/16
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