In January 2015, Cristiano Ronaldo was banned for two games after he lashed out against Cordoba defender Edimar Fraga, whom he punched and slapped after growing extremely frustrated with the astute defending of the hosts, who didn’t give an inch through the course of the encounter. Ronaldo couldn’t find a way through their resolute defence, and his violent outburst was perceived as a way of letting out his frustration.
This term, the Portuguese has kicked out at his opponents in successive games. He kicked a Sporting Gijon player in a league game for Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in a 5-1 win for his side and continued his unsportsmanlike conduct in the following game that finished 1-1 against Real Betis at the Benito Villamarin. Although he grabbed a brace in a convincing win for his side against Sporting Gijon, Gareth Bale was the best player for Los Blancos on the pitch.
Against Real Betis, the Spanish giants appeared toothless in the absence of the Welshman, who is out injured. Luka Modric gave a recital in midfield play as Ronaldo failed to find his feet. And it is easy to point that his kicking of the opponent was borne out of frustration due to the poor game he was having.
Looking at the numbers, Ronaldo seems to be in the midst of another outstanding season, having notched 27 goals from as many games across La Liga and the Champions League. But, as they say, the devil lies in the details. Of his 16 league goals, five came in a 6-0 thrashing of Catalan outfit Espanyol; he notched a brace each against Rayo Vallecano, Real Sociedad and Sporting Gijon – the games finished 10-2, 3-1 and 5-1 respectively in favour of the Madrid outfit. His other goals have come against Levante, Celta Vigo, Las Palmas, Eibar and Getafe. Notably, none of Ronaldo’s goals have come against the current top four in the Spanish league table – Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Villarreal in that order (Real Madrid lie third).
He has failed to get on the scoresheet against most major Spanish sides, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Valencia, Athletic Bilbao, Sevilla and Villarreal have all managed to keep Ronaldo at bay. In the Champions league, he became the player with most goals in the group stage of the tournament in a single campaign with a haul of 11 strikes. But none of his goals came against Paris Saint-Germain across the two legs against the Parisians as he put relatively weaker opposition of Shakhtar Donetsk and Malmo to the sword.
The murmurs of Ronaldo not showing up against bigger teams have been around for a while, but they have grown louder this season as his numbers against weaker and stronger opposition have become ever starker. On the other hand, Bale has grown considerably this season and has been time again the best Real Madrid player on show.
There have been reports that he wants to play a more central role or prefers a left-sided role over his current place on the right wing. And if the form continues to desert Ronaldo against the bigger teams then Zinedine Zidane might be forced to rethink the role that the former Manchester United winger plays in his team.