The Ronaldo Code – Serie A Dominance

Ronaldo Goes To Italy

Take a breath. Maybe two. Cristiano Ronaldo has made it through his first Serie A start…but he didn’t score a hat-trick and dominate, what has happened with the world?!

It felt like only a few short hours ago, we were prepared to see CR7 to get dropped into Serie A, set the entire league on fire right off the bat, and hop over to a high-paying MLS gig once he has proved that he can dominate another European league. However, perhaps we’ve made a few missteps in our assumptions.

First Things

The first big issue with what we assumed was that Juventus knew what they were doing when they brought in their man. On Saturday, Juventus seemed to have decided that something as valuable as Ronaldo should sit up front and be the main focal point of the attack. However, any follower of the Portuguese legend’s career knows that CR7 benefits massively from playing with a front-man who can make great movements around Ronaldo and also drag a few defenders away. This allows Ronaldo freedom to cut in on the wing when only being faced with one defender and also helps give defenders the nagging feeling that they can’t completely focus on Ronaldo as there is another threat also pushing into the box with him. This is how life was paved with gold during time with Manchester United, Real Madrid, and the Portuguese national team (though at the World Cup, sometimes he played the frontman role). Rooney at United, Benzema/Higuain at Real, and a mish-mash of a half dozen strikers with Portugal allows Ronaldo do perform at his record smashing best.

With Juve, it wasn’t until late in his first game that the ‘Old Lady’ tried to field a set-up that would have Ronaldo roaming his preferred left wing. The shift immediately showed the way forward for the champions of Serie A and Ronaldo as Juventus and CR7 immediately felt more threatening. We’d love to see Mandzukic or Dybala utilized in almost a 4-3-3 that takes serious cues from the Madrid squads of the last decade.

Other Things

The second big assumption was that most of us had forgotten that Ronaldo is getting older. Winning the Champions League, smashing records, taking Portugal to new heights, and seeming to be as dangerous as he has ever been, Ronaldo isn’t a young talent. Father time is undefeated, despite CR7 looking like a worthy contender for the last 4 years. A 28 year old Ronaldo would make short work of anything Serie A could throw at him, but, while soccer is universal, an old dog learning new tricks in a new league is going to be a bit of a task. Ronaldo has largely been blessed with the luck to avoid many injuries, but joining a league where a new defender looking to make a name for himself, an old defender looking to chop down someone they’re jealous of, or a team taking their hope of shutting down Ronaldo to an extreme level could result in an injury that ends this new journey before it ever gets off the ground.

The last assumption is that Serie A doesn’t have the depth to prevent Ronaldo from beating up on lower league opposition week-in and week-out. However, Juventus has already set a precedent for beating these teams, it’s entirely possible that some of these squads might be happy seeing Juventus leave town with 3 points, but glean their success from shutting down their biggest summer signing. Teams have long parked the bus against the mighty squads that Ronaldo has been a part of, but the defensive nature of Italy’s top tier might be something slightly different for Ronaldo.

Closing

A new worry might also be that some of the best midfielder/attackers in the Juventus squad, Cuadrado and Douglas Costa, didn’t seem particularly comfortable with Ronaldo on Saturday. While it’s totally possible that we’re making a quick judgement on a small sample size, not finding a good link-up with some of the most valuable member of his own squad could be a serious detriment to Ronaldo’s adjustment. During Saturday’s game, despite being part of the attack, Cuadrado and Costa only received three passes FROM Ronaldo, and Ronaldo only received 6 passes from the others. Cuadrado will probably adjust, but Douglas Costa’s career has always been replete with a few question marks so hopefully an on-field relationship with Ronaldo doesn’t continue to be one of them. It will be interesting to see which of those players might be sacrificed for Mandzukic or Dybala in order to make a three-pronged attack with Ronaldo on the wing.

We have no doubt that a talent like Ronaldo can shine wherever he sets his boots but we’d be lying if we said that Saturday’s game didn’t feel a bit like a 90 minute version of the “Everything’s fine” meme. It will be interesting to see how long the adjustment period is for CR7, and we’re certain that the first penalty Juve receives will be Ronaldo’s for the taking. Even with all this said? We’re still banking on him scoring 20+ after all he’s still Ronaldo, right?

 

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About the author: Andrew McCole

 

If I may be so bold to condense my immense personality into two words, it would be: soccer nerd. I love everything about the beautiful game and I tend to reflect that in my writing. I suffer through Liverpool fandom and hope that they will win another title before my wife spreads my ashes at Anfield (considering I'm in my twenties, it seems somewhat likely). Although I also dabble in tennis, teaching, and coaching, most of my free-time is spent writing articles for The Center Circle! Feel free to stalk me on Google+

 

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