There were days when Cristiano Ronaldo would put free-kicks into top bins just for fun. There was once a time when the superstar forward was lethal on the dead ball. Opposing teams would dread confronting his knuckleball technique. He could manipulate the dead ball into the nets from any distance and angle.
Fast forward into present times, Ronaldo is anything but stellar over the dead ball. His other-worldly capabilities have faded. Overall his performance is ageing with him like fine wine. But with a dead ball, he is no longer the same as he used to be. Ronaldo scored 44 goals from free-kicks in his first 12 seasons. Since then, he has managed just 9 in 7 seasons (2014-21). We came across a thorough analysis of Ronaldo’s struggles by sports scientist Dr Rajpal Brar. Here are a few takeaways.
Ronaldo’s iconic approach and technique have seen little to no changes but Dr Brar points to other micro factors for him losing his prowess. These might be a sudden lack of lift and the absence of unpredictable movement. A little more technical factors like swing leg velocity, trunk angle and ball spin-rate in play have contributed to his struggles to get the ball up and down.
Dr Brar made it clear that the footballs and the tech behind them were not a reason for the former Madrid star’s decline. The advancement in ball technology has been similar to the times during his prolific first 12 seasons. So clearly footballs aren’t a problem.
This one is interesting. Ronaldo has no doubt suffered an increased number of lower-body injuries in the last few years when his dead ball craft began to fade. But Dr Brar suggests that if that was an issue, it would have affected the other areas of his game as well. The injuries might have been a problem initially but a cascade of misses could have had a negative psychological effect on Ronaldo’s psyche.
Now here’s a solution! Dr Brar pointed to NBA star DeAndre Jordan, who changed his fortunes, citing an example. The Nets player struggled with his regular free-throw routine. He overhauled these struggles with great success. Doc suggests that Ronaldo should break the negative cycle that his current routine is inflicting upon him. “Dr Brar suggests a simplification of the whole process that may induce what is known as ‘over-thinking anxiety’ and rather boil it down to its essentials.” as per Onefootball.
Another solution could be moving towards a more Lionel Messi-like approach to taking freekicks instead of the knuckleball technique. While we tried to jot the bullet points of the video here, the entire footage is an amazing watch. As far as Ronaldo is considered, he has far from let his struggles slow him down. His hard work and talent still outshine the best names of the current day.