by Jan S0L0
To ask questions of the leading goalscorer in the illustrious history of Real Madrid and the man currently in possession of the coveted Ballon d’Or is a risky business – one likely to leave you with at least one egg carefully cracked on your face, if not a whole box.
It is, however, difficult to escape the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo has not been at his electrifying best this season.
In many ways, he has not had to be, with Los Blancos having made a solid, if unspectacular start to life under Rafa Benitez which only delivered its first defeat in Sunday’s 3-2 reversal away at Sevilla.
For a man who sets the bar so high, though, any dip in standards, regardless of how minor, is always going to be dissected in minute detail.
Over the course of the last week or so, Ronaldo has been busy promoting his latest enterprise, with CR7 the brand having branched out into the world of movies.
While discussing this venture with the BBC, a man locked in a battle with eternal rival Lionel Messi for the right to be considered the best player on the planet said of the global standing he considers himself to hold: “In my mind, I’m always the best. I don’t care what people think, what they say. In my mind, not just this year but always, I’m always the best.”
Confidence, arrogance, call it what you like, but when you have achieved as much as he has on and off the pitch, you have probably earned the right to blow your own trumpet every once in a while.
The problem at the moment is, Ronaldo is not backing up his words on the field.
It feels almost wrong to suggest that his powers may be on the wane – after all, he still has 13 goals in 17 appearances for club and country this season – but he is not affecting matters at Real in the manner in which he has done on an almost weekly basis since arriving in the Spanish capital back in 2009.
Since plundering eight goals in the space of four remarkable days against Espanyol and Shakhtar Donetsk back in mid-September, the target has only been found five times in 12 outings – a strike rate Ronaldo is unaccustomed to.
He has been able to keep Real ticking over at home and abroad, with La Liga betting markets expecting them to run Barcelona close again this season while chasing down an 11th European Cup crown, but more is required from the king of the Bernabeu.
Of his 13 goals this season, none have come in games in which Real have dropped points.
It is in these close encounters that a sprinkling of his magic dust is required, the difference between one point and three, or none and a share of the spoils.
His efforts so far have all come in comfortable successes – admittedly made all the more comfortable by his contribution – and it is here that Benitez, and Ronaldo himself will be looking to offer more heading forward.
It is, of course, impossible to perform to the best of your ability week after week, year after year without suffering a wobble every once in a while, but when you are as good as he is, and as good as he likes to tell everyone he is, then anything less than superhuman exploits will be questioned.