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La Liga

Is this the beginning of the end for Cristiano Ronaldo?

At age 31, Cristiano Ronaldo is beginning to face serious questions about a decline.
At age 31, Cristiano Ronaldo is beginning to face serious questions about a decline.

In a different context, Cristiano Ronaldo's travails against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday could have been written off as 'one of those days'. The forward somehow unleashed 11 fruitless attempts, seven from inside the box, and could only be relieved to see Alvaro Morata pounce late to give Real Madrid a 2-1 win. Certainly, given how one thumping strike swooshed just wide and another flick went close, you could say Ronaldo was unlucky. Next time, he will surely score.

But that would have been far easier to do had his display not fit into a larger trend, one that may give Madrid some cause for concern. Ronaldo has started the season unusually slowly and has now walked off the Santiago Bernabeu grass four consecutive times without scoring. That has never happened before. So desperately did he want a goal Sunday that he twice ignored teammates in better positions only to squander the chances himself. That triggered accusations of selfishness and boos from his own supporters.

His record in La Liga this season is dreadful. He has 39 attempts and two goals; a conversion rate of 5.1 percent. The goals have come in a 5-2 win over Osasuna and a 6-1 hammering of Betis. His expected goals average (xG) against Athletic ticked in at 2.03, which is more than what all but three of the Spanish top division clubs have averaged per game collectively. On top of that, Madrid's last four home games have been against a weakened Athletic side, plus Eibar, Villarreal and Legia Warsaw.

"He is not taking his chances now, but he will soon, and with calmness," manager Zinedine Zidane assured on Sunday, according to Diario AS.

But will he? Or is the form part of a permanent decline?


ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

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Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo has told Coach magazine he does not have a "big rivalry" with Barcelona's Lionel Messi and instead there is a "big mutual respect" between the pair.

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Guardiola, now at Manchester City, was managing Bayern Munich at the time and had already declared he would leave the Bundelisga side in the summer of 2016.

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Pique, 29, said earlier this month that it was his ambition to one day preside over the club as president but had no interest in becoming coach.

Former president Laporta would give the defender his full backing and said: "I would vote for him.

"He has a great personality, loves Barca, is brave... he has all the qualities...