Ronaldo is slowing down - but his goals record remains incredible

ANALYSIS

It was a week to remember for Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid forward ended his longest stretch without a goal in the Champions League with a double away to Bayern Munich last Wednesday and added three more in the second leg to send Los Blancos into the last four of the competition.

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Such performances are nothing new from the prolific Portuguese, who is now closing in on 400 goals for Madrid since moving from Manchester United in the summer of 2009. However, they have been somewhat harder to come by than usual in the current campaign.

Those five strikes in two games mean Cristiano now has seven in 10 in the Champions League this term (which looks a lot better than the two from eight appearances prior to the quarter-final series versus Bayern). And he may yet reach double figures in Europe, as he has in each of the last five seasons.

In all competitions, Ronaldo now has 31 from 38 matches in 2016-17, the poorest ratio from his eight seasons at the Santiago Bernabeu. And with a maximum of 10 games left for the Portuguese this term (depending on progress in the Champions League and also a possible suspension in La Liga), he looks set to finish the campaign with fewer than 50 goals for the first time since his injury-interrupted first season (when he netted 33 in 35 appearances).

Ronaldo goals and expected

Those included 26 from 29 games in La Liga, but in 2016-17 Ronaldo has fewer goals than that in the Primera Division - 19 so far from his 24 appearances and only 13 excluding penalties.

Opta's xG (expected goals) model assigns a value on every shot between 0 and 1 that reflects how likely a player is to score that given chance, based on the distance to the goal, angle to the goal and various other factors. A player’s xG per 90 minutes is the average xG that a player generates adjusted for 90 minutes played - so that they are comparable across different players with varying minutes played.

Interestingly, this season in La Liga is the only one in which Ronaldo’s goalscoring rate has fallen below his expected goal rate, as the graph above shows. In addition, his 13 non-penalty goals represent his lowest return by far in his Madrid career - nine fewer than his 22 Primera Division strikes (26 including penalties) in 2009-10, albeit with seven fixtures still left.

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There are several reasons for this drop. First of all, Cristiano missed the start of the season after picking up a knee injury in the final of Euro 2016, and he took time to find his feet upon his return. He has also been rested much more by coach Zinedine Zidane this term and even substituted on occasions. And age is another factor. Now 32 and hoping to prolong his career for many years to come, giving the forward more rest is a sensible strategy.

Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid Bayern Munich UCL 18042017

So there is a noticeable drop in Ronaldo's goalscoring ratio this season, a slight decline - and that is only normal given his age and the circumstances of the current campaign.

But it is important to look at the bigger picture and Opta stats show that Cristiano is still way ahead of most other forwards in La Liga when it comes to scoring goals - even if he has been less prolific in 2016-17.

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Since moving to Madrid, Ronaldo's ratio for non-penalty goals (per game) in the Primera Division has not dropped below 0.8 (in 2009-10), while it peaked at 1.1 in 2014-15 and remained high (0.82) last season. This term, it is currently at just 0.56, although that still compares very favourably with the average striker ratio in La Liga (0.34).

There has never been anything average about the Madeira-born forward and he will end this season with more impressive numbers, even if those are slightly below his usual standards. And after five goals in two games against one of Europe's best teams in the past week, he heads into Sunday's crucial Clasico clash against Barcelona with his confidence at a high.

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