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Cristiano Ronaldo needs to be more than just a goal scorer

It may be hard to see past the goal numbers, but Juventus needed something different from Ronaldo to get the most out of its attack this season.

ACF Fiorentina v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

I have never tried to hide my feelings about Cristiano Ronaldo as a person or as a player, especially once he made the move to Juventus. And there are times where you may have to respect his skill and talent on the pitch but no matter what he does or wins with Juventus, it doesn’t change the things he has done off the pitch.

While those things should not too quickly be forgotten and should continue to be discussed more often than it is, this is not going to focus on those issues. We know Ronaldo is one of the greatest goal scorers in the history of this sport, and he has proven he is still capable of scoring at a high level despite his age since moving to Turin.

However, Juventus’ struggles this season has shown us that the club needs more from some of the top players and that includes Ronaldo. Goals are great, but those numbers don’t always tell a full story of how a player is helping, or hurting in some cases, his teammates around him.

I don’t think it’s an unpopular take to say we have seen several instances of Ronaldo being selfish during his time with Juventus. Whether it be forcing an ill-advised shot, not making the extra pass or being more worried about his face than his team, Ronaldo’s selfishness has started getting in the way of the team’s success. It’s not even that much different than how he played in his first two seasons with Juventus, but it definitely becomes more noticeable when the results are not going the club’s way.

Ronaldo once again leads the team with 32 goals scored across all competitions and even beats out the combined total of the two closest teammates, as Alvaro Morata and Federico Chiesa have scored 30 goals. Well, that stat becomes significantly less impressive when you realize Ronaldo has more shots than those two players plus Paulo Dybala combined.

According to Football Reference, Ronaldo ranks fifth on the team in goals per shot among players with at least 30 shots, behind the likes of Weston McKennie and Dejan Kulusevski. I know you want to have your striker take on more chances and because of Ronaldo’s past success, maybe he has earned the right to be selfish every now and then, but it has become clear that other players around him are suffering for it and in turn, so is the club.

In last week’s win over Parma, there was another instance of a play that seems to be happening at least once per game at this point. Ronaldo had the ball at his feet as Juventus was breaking toward the opponent’s goal. He had multiple teammates running into the box but he instead went for a shot which was easily blocked by a defender standing directly in front of him.

A similar instance happened over the weekend against Fiorentina when Ronaldo was played through by Morata and he had an opportunity to take on a single defender. He chose the wrong angle, cutting back inside on his right foot to allow more help defenders arrive and even when they did, Ronaldo tried shooting through everyone. When the rebound came out, more defenders arrived and instead of showing patience and composure in the box, he fired it right back into a Fiorentina player without glancing up for one of his teammates in all the chaos.

This is nothing new though and it’s not even a surprise at this point to see Ronaldo try to take a chance for himself only to be blocked by a defender. Just look at his history of taking free kicks since moving to Juventus. In 68 shot attempts from free kicks, Ronaldo has only put one in the back of the net with 44 of them being blocked by the wall, according to FBref. That’s not acceptable, especially knowing the other free kick takers available have been more successful.

Then you can’t talk about free kicks and the wall without talking about Ronaldo’s just disaster appearances in the wall recently. Not only does he seem scared of the ball, but he is only caring about blocking himself rather than blocking the ball. And with how often he hits the wall on his own free kicks, you would think he would know what to do.

And it’s not just the decision of not sharing, either, because even when he decides to make the pass it is too late or just inaccurate, especially for a player of his quality. Ronaldo ranks in just the 56th percentile in assists over the last year among forwards in the men’s big five leagues and European competition.

This season, Ronaldo ranks 15th on the team (min. 500 passes attempted) with a 78.4 completion rate. He is tied for ninth on the team with 2.6 expected assists and eighth with 27 passes leading directly to shot attempts. Not surprisingly, Ronaldo also leads the team in passes blocked.

His passing has just not been there this season or very often during his three years with Juventus. And I often see the argument as his teammates not providing the help or timing their runs correctly, but that clearly hasn’t been the case (see McKennie run above). And even when there appears to be no run made, I can’t blame the teammates for assuming Ronaldo is about to shoot it into the defense like this example of Juan Cuadrado against Parma. Plus, the pass is there well before Ronaldo actually lays it off.

And yes, obviously Ronaldo’s goal scoring has come in handy several times this season and there have been some poor team performances saved because of it. But it is still OK to expect more than just a glorified goal poacher from a player of his caliber.

Even if that’s just what he is now, that is clearly not what Juventus needs in this current squad and maybe it’s just time to move on. And you will certainly hear no arguments from me.