Yes, Cristiano Ronaldo Is Scoring for Fun – But His Goals Paper Over Glaring Deficiencies

Cristiano Ronaldo
Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo | Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

If you’re the kind of person who tends to watch Italian football via your Twitter timeline, you may be in awe of what appears to be just another mesmeric season from one of the greatest to ever do it.

However, the vintage moments – whether it be the Superman leap to nod home at Sampdoria, the thunderbastard at Genoa or the set-piece magic in the recent Derby della Mole – that gain miilons of views and thousands of retweets mean that Cristiano Ronaldo’s 2019/20 campaign is easily misinterpreted by the average Joe.

And when you see that he became the first Juventus player since Omar Sivori in 1960/61 to score at least 25 goals in a single Serie A campaign, it may be difficult to understand why.

But there’s no doubting his nonetheless stellar goal tally this term has papered over an underwhelming season by the Portuguese’s lofty but demising standards.

Sure, his goals may well secure Maurizio Sarri his first-ever league title in management and the Bianconeri’s ninth Scudetto on the bounce, but when you tune into your typical Juve fixture – they’ve all been pretty similar this season – one thing’s painstakingly obvious: this isn’t Ronaldo’s team, it’s Paulo Dybala’s.

La Joya’s 21 league goal contributions this term may be inferior to Ronaldo’s 31, but his impact on this Juve side is profound. He’s the heartbeat. The metronome. The key spoke in Sarri’s stop-start wheel.

Paulo DybalaPaulo Dybala
Paulo Dybala has enjoyed an exceptional campaign in Turin | Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

The Argentine’s versatility has been laid bare this term, being utilised as part of a front two – often alongside Ronaldo – in an attacking midfield role or, more recently, as a false nine following Sarri’s switch back to his tried and trusty 4-3-3. Wherever he’s been utilised, though, Dybala’s excelled; his capacity to exploit space all over the pitch, receive possession in deeper areas, combine efficiently and outfox opponents with supreme balance and ball manipulation have been nothing short of spellbinding.

And while it’s the Argentine who’s so often responsible for kickstarting the short passing combinations which, I guess, is ‘Sarriball’, Ronaldo’s looked like a fish out of water when Juve attempt to build-up and break down the typically deep blocks they face.

In fairness, he wasn’t helped by Sarri’s use of a 4-3-1-2 (and an incompetent midfield) for much of the campaign which saw him shoehorned into the side as a striker. The lack of reliable width available in this system led to congested central areas and thus, less room for Ronaldo to manoeuvre.

And when the 35-year-old drifted out to the left flank for a wee bit of breathing room, Sarri’s use of favoured left-back Alex Sandro in an inverted role meant he was often isolated and tasked with beating two or more opponents when the ball arrived at his feet without the support of the overload.

Olympique Lyon v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First LegOlympique Lyon v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg
Ronaldo was anonymous amid a disjointed attacking display from Juventus in their 1-0 defeat at Lyon in the Champions League | RvS.Media/Monika Majer/Getty Images

This was a typical theme up until the break in March and although Ronaldo endured a goalless November, an imperious goalscoring run from December and February in which he scored in 11 consecutive Serie A games ensured his inability to beat a man, poor decision-making, lack of fluidity and dwindling physical attributes were all overlooked.

He was producing at a frightening rate, and that was enough for Juventini – as well as ‘@CR7GOAT’ on Twitter.

Nevertheless, recent signs suggest Ronaldo is set for a late-season resurgence ahead of a tricky domestic run-in and the finale of the Champions League next month, in which Juve will have to overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit against Lyon in order to reach the last eight.

[embedded content]

I’m not necessarily referring to the vintage strike from distance at Genoa and the rare bit of set-piece magic against Torino as signs of his return to form; but instead, it’s the backheeled assists for Gonzalo Higuain, the more efficient combination play and overall inclusion in Sarriball which have been refreshing to witness as a result of the Italian’s return to a 4-3-3 – and Ronaldo moving out to the left-wing with Dybala serving as the crafty false nine.

He’s been a particular beneficiary of the return to form of x-factor talent Douglas Costa on the opposite flank – who stretches out opposing defences with his capacity to hug the touchline – and La Joya’s ingenious movement which often draws the attention of centre-backs higher up the pitch, allowing Ronaldo to exploit the space in behind.

And all of this had come after a woeful start to calcio’s resumption from the former Real Madrid man. He’d dropped an absolute disasterclass in the Coppa Italia semi-final second leg against Milan – failing to add to his 10-goal haul from the spot this term as his penalty crashed off the inside of Gianluigi Donnarumma’s post – while his clutch gene went AWOL for the resulting final against Napoli, as the Bianconeri slumped to a penalty shootout defeat.

Between both of these ‘is Cristiano Ronaldo in decline?’-worthy showings, the 35-year-old was forced to stomach Lionel Messi’s mesmeric display in Barcelona’s first return fixture away at Mallorca, as the Argentine dazzled in a 4-1 victory with a goal and a pair of assists.

Ronaldo failed to fire in the Coppa Italia final defeat to NapoliRonaldo failed to fire in the Coppa Italia final defeat to Napoli
Ronaldo failed to fire in the Coppa Italia final defeat to Napoli | Marco Rosi/Getty Images

Messi would then spearhead a 2-0 victory over Leganes the day before Ronaldo’s cup final no-show and overall, it was a five-day period which perfectly encapsulated Messi’s overwhelming superiority over his longtime rival at this point in their respective careers – albeit against differing levels of opponent.

Nevertheless, despite a minor resurgence after a difficult start to the restart, there’s little doubting his 25 Serie A strikes has papered over a clearly demising footballing great.

But hey, with crunch time arriving in the race for the Scudetto and Juventus certainly being underdogs to bag their third Champions League title this August, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Ronaldo further plaster over his decline by conjuring up a bit of timeless excellence once more.

Let’

Manchester City & Juventus Join Race for Wolves Star Adama Traoré

Adama Traore
Adama Traore has turned heads all over Europe this season with his Wolves displays | Sam Bagnall – AMA/Getty Images

Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Adama Traoré has garnered the attention of several European giants this season, as Manchester City and Juventus join the race for his signature.

Traoré joined Wolves after two inconsistent years at Middlesbrough in the summer of 2018, for around £18m. This season the 24-year-old has blossomed into one of the Premier League’s most exciting – and deadly – talents with four goals and nine assists in the competition.

Wolves boss Nuno Espírito Santo has been widely lauded for vastly improving Traoré’s end product – only two players in the English top flight can boast more assists than the Spanish Under-21 international.

In January, a 90min exclusive revealed that three clubs had registered an interest in the dynamic winger, with his former side Barcelona rivalling the Premier League’s Manchester City and Liverpool.

However, ESPN’s sources suggest that Juventus have joined the hunt for Traoré’s services. The Italian giants and Manchester City supposedly top the list of suitors while Barcelona have dropped out of contention. The Catalan club are thought to only be able to finance a move for Traoré next summer.

Although, the report claims that Traoré will remain at Wolves if Espírito Santo’s side clinch Champions League qualification. The Midlands team are sixth in the Premier League table and a flying start to football’s resumption – thanks in no small part to Traoré’s ever-increasing influence – leaves them very much in the race for the top four places.

Alternatively, Wolves could qualify for Europe’s premier competition by winning the Europa League. They face an Olympiacos side – which dumped Arsenal out of the tournament – in the second leg of their round of 16 tie after a 1-1 draw in Greece.

During the lockdown, it came to light that Wolves would demand £70m for Traoré, a sizeable fee given the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, Manchester City may be in need of reinforcements on the flanks after Leroy Sané’s move to Bayern Munich.

Let’

Trio of European Giants Considering Summer Move for Alexandre Lacazette

Alexandre Lacazette
Alexandre Lacazette could soon leave Arsenal with a number of clubs interested | Michael Steele/Getty Images

Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette could be on his way out of the Emirates this summer, with Juventus and Atletico Madrid both making initial contact with the striker regarding a move, while Inter are also keen.

The Frenchman has struggled to hold down his place in the Gunners side in 2019/20, particularly in more recent times. In fact, in his side’s last eight Premier League games, Lacazette has started just twice. However, he did come off the bench last time out against Wolves to net a crucial second goal – his tenth in all competitions this campaign.

The 29-year-old has been linked with a move away from Arsenal for a while, even more so following his continued antics off the field. French outlet L’Equipe (via Get French Football News) now report that Juventus and Atletico Madrid have already both opened talks with the forward regarding a possible summer move.

However, Inter are also keen on his services – especially if Lautaro Martinez completes his high-profile transfer to Barcelona. As for Atletico, Lacazette reached an agreement with the club prior to his move to Arsenal, but a transfer ban left them unable to secure his services. In order, to make the deal more appealing to the Gunners, Atletico could look to include a player in the deal.

Thomas Partey has been linked with the north Londoners for some time now, and a source recently confirmed to 90min that Arsenal have enquired about the possibility of paying the midfielder’s release clause in instalments as they look to secure his services.

Thomas ParteyThomas Partey
Thomas Partey has been linked with Arsenal for some time | Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Elsewhere, Juventus are also said to be keen on including a player in any potential deal. Adrien Rabiot has been persistently linked with a departure after a hugely disappointing first season in Turin, and the Gunners have been mentioned as an interested party in the past.

However, Juventus, Atletico Madrid and Inter, or whoever else is interested, will have to wait until the 2019/20 season is over before Arsenal engage in any conversations. Boss Mikel Arteta did also recently insist that he is really happy with the forward, while further adding that the club will soon sit down with him to discuss his future.

Let’

Milan vs Juventus Preview: How to Watch on TV, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News

FBL-ITA-CUP-JUVENTUS-AC MILAN-HEALTH-VIRUS
Milan vs Juventus | MIGUEL MEDINA/Getty Images

With the title ever closer to being wrapped up, Juventus look to continue their run of Serie A dominance as they head to Milan on Tuesday night.

The Bianconeri are brimming with confidence following their destruction of rivals Torino in Saturday’s Derby della Mole, extending their lead to seven points atop Serie A.

Milan, meanwhile, handed Maurizio Sarri’s side a massive title boost, comfortably defeating second-placed Lazio by three goals to nil on Saturday night. The Rossoneri are enjoying their own good spell of form as they aim to solidify Europa League football next season.

SS Lazio v AC Milan - Serie ASS Lazio v AC Milan - Serie A
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a penalty in Milan’s 0-3 win at Lazio | MB Media/Getty Images

When is Kick Off? Tuesday 7 July
What Time is Kick Off? 20:45 (BST)
Where is it Played? San Siro
TV Channel/Live Stream? Premier Sports 1

Cristiano Ronaldo, Blaise Matuidi, Paulo Dybala, Danilo, Leonardo BonucciCristiano Ronaldo, Blaise Matuidi, Paulo Dybala, Danilo, Leonardo Bonucci
Juventus v Torino | Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Midfielder Samu Castillejo is doubtful ahead of Tuesday night’s clash having picked up a muscle injury in Saturday night’s win at Lazio. Hakan Calhanoglu was also replaced late in the game having received a knock, it is unlikely whether he will feature.

Defenders Mateo Musacchio and Leonardo Duarte are both out with long term injuries and will not feature.

Andrea Conti, JonyAndrea Conti, Jony
SS Lazio v AC Milan | Giampiero Sposito/Getty Images

The visitors will still be without a recognised left back with Alex Sandro and Mattea De Sciglio out of action. Blaise Matuidi and Danilo have been deployed as makeshift alternatives in recent matches.

Centre-backs Giorgio Chiellini and Merih Demiral are still recovering from long-term injuries and are unlikely to feature. Veteran midfielder Sami Khedira will also miss Tuesday night’s match with a thigh injury. Matthijs de Ligt and Paulo Dybala are suspended and will not feature.

Milan: Donnarumma; Conti, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Bennacer, Kessie; Saelemaekers, Bonaventura, Rebic; Ibrahimovic.

Juventus: Buffon; Cuadrado, Rugani, Bonucci, Danilo; Rabiot, Pjanic, Bentancur; Bernardeschi, Higuain, Ronaldo

Zlatan IbrahimovicZlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic | Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Milan are unbeaten since their return to Serie A action. Having endured a minor blip, being held to a 2-2 draw at Spal on Wednesday, the Rossoneri bounced back superbly in their upset win at Lazio on Saturday night.

Stefano Pioli’s side are on an upward trajectory as they hunt down fifth placed Roma, a win on Tuesday could see them leapfrog their Europa League rivals.

Juventus are showing no signs of letting up in their ruthless pursuit of a ninth consecutive Serie A title. The Bianconeri have scored 11 goals in their last three league outings, much to the credit of Ronaldo and Dybala’s inspired run of form.

For all the scrutiny it has come under for failing to clinch cup silverware, Sarriball seems to be working a treat in the league.

Here’s how the two sides have fared in their last five outings.

Milan

Lazio 0-3 Milan (4/7)
Spal 2-2 Milan (1/7)
Milan 2-0 Roma (28/6)
Lecce 1-4 Milan (22/6)
Juventus 0-0 Milan (12/6)

Juventus

Juventus 4-1 Torino (4/7)
Genoa 1-3 Juventus (30/6)
Juventus 4-0 Lecce (26/6)
Bologna 0-2 Juventus (22/6)
Napoli 1-0 Juventus (17/6)

Juventus v Torino FC - Serie AJuventus v Torino FC - Serie A
Ronaldo scored first free-kick for Juve against Torino | Chris Ricco/Getty Images

Milan’s conquering of Lazio in Rome came as a surprise, but highlights the vast improvement the club has made since the restart.

In the absence of Dybala and de Ligt, Juventus are without two vital players whose performances have been hugely responsible for their run of dominance.

Historically, this fixture has been a tight affair. Milan have proven to be a tough adversary for the champions this year; don’t be surprised to see the Rossoneri hold their own.

Prediciton: Milan 2-2 Juventus

Let’

How Are Juventus Going to Win Another Serie A Title Despite Everything Being So Bad?

Maurizio Sarri, Cristiano Ronaldo
Juventus are set to win their ninth consecutive Serie A title | Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

It’s getting pretty boring seeing Juventus win Serie A. I Bianconeri have won eight titles in a row, so the idea of seeing Lazio emerge out of nowhere and dethrone Juventus was seriously exciting for everyone who isn’t a fan of the latter.

Now, that might still happen, but Lazio’s shock 3-0 loss at home to AC Milan means it almost certainly won’t. Juventus are seven points clear with eight games to go. It’s not looking good.

Credit where credit’s due, Juventus are on the cusp of winning an unprecedented ninth consecutive top title. That’s incredible. Utterly incredible. However, what makes it even all the wilder is the fact that pretty much nobody involved with Juventus has been happy this year.

Juventus v Torino FC - Serie AJuventus v Torino FC - Serie A
It has been a turbulent season for Juventus | Stefano Guidi/Getty Images

On paper, you might think it’s all rosy at the Allianz Stadium. They’re top of the league, having lost just three games (none at home). They’re in the last 16 of the Champions League. They reached the Coppa Italia final.

The thing is, Juventus fans expect all that. Being dominant is part of being Juventus. It’s all about how you dominate.

Let’s go back to the first four games of the season. Sarri had just finished encouraging Paulo Dybala to leave the club because he did not feature in his favoured 4-3-3 formation. Truthfully, nobody did.

Juventus won three and drew one, but they didn’t look convincing in any of those games. The build-up play was slow and uncomfortable. Defending was awkward. There was an acceptance that Juve probably wouldn’t have done so well if the squad wasn’t full of elite talents like Cristiano Ronaldo.

FBL-ITA-SERIEA-JUVENTUS-VERONAFBL-ITA-SERIEA-JUVENTUS-VERONA
The start of the season was uncomfortable for Juventus | ISABELLA BONOTTO/Getty Images

Imagine you’re trying to score a goal, but instead of a goalkeeper, it’s just a huge brick wall stretching from post to post. That brick wall isn’t doing anything at all. It’s not clever. It’s not impressive. It doesn’t actually deserve to beat you, but it’s just impossible to overcome. That’s Juventus.

Sarri soon switched to a 4-3-1-2, which brought Dybala back in from the cold, but created a whole load of fresh issues. That ‘1’, the attacking midfielder, was always disappointing. It was a role given to Federico Bernardeschi for the most part, and he only recorded his first assist in 22 June’s 2-0 win over Bologna. He’s still yet to score.

In the ‘Jorginho role’ at the base of the midfield, Miralem Pjanić has looked as bad as he ever has, and he has been punished with…*checks notes*…a €60m move to Barcelona. Why does nothing make sense?

Paulo DybalaPaulo Dybala
Paulo Dybala urged fans to stop whistling against Brescia in February | Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

There was just no spark. It all looked far too similar to Massimiliano Allegri’s side. They would just pass the ball around and wait for a chance to show that they were stronger than their opponents, rather than go out and dominate from the get-go. Fans weren’t happy, and they voiced their displeasure through whistling.

As teams began to figure the 4-3-1-2 out, Sarri went back to the unimpressive 4-3-3. Performances continued to underwhelm, but nobody really noticed because they kept winning.

Verona, Brescia, Sampdoria, Genoa, SPAL and Bologna all came close to snatching points from Juventus, only to eventually come undone by the fact that I Bianconeri are simply too strong. A 7′ tall basketball player will always have the tools to dominate someone who is 5′.

You’ve then got the 1-0 loss to Lyon in the first leg of the Champions League last 16. Like with Paris Saint-Germain, that competition is the only one fans really care about these days, but all Juventus did was pass the ball around and gamble on a chance popping up from somewhere. Spoiler alert – it didn’t.

Olympique Lyon v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First LegOlympique Lyon v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg
Lyon were far too good for Juventus in the Champions League | RvS.Media/Monika Majer/Getty Images

Fans have always known that ‘Sarriball’ would take a while to get used to. However, we’re now in July, and it doesn’t seem like the team is ever going to take to it.

Sure, Sarri’s going to lead Juventus to the title, but this may have been one of the most disappointing seasons in the club’s recent history. The boss looks frustrated, The players look confused. Fans are outraged. Is the title going to be worth it?

For more from ​Tom Gott, follow him on ​Twitter!

Let’