Bored of Messi vs Ronaldo rivalry ? How about Ronaldo vs his younger version ? How much does current Ronaldo compare to himself several years ago ?
Lets begin from what most players seek the most : what they win with their teams. In total, he won 9 cups in total, superior to 3 cups he has been winning so far in Madrid. Even by removing 2 Carling Cup and FA Community Shield, his achievement with MU is still far greater. Let alone by in Champions League competition where he only could go as far as semifinal with Madrid.
Ronaldo also achieved better in Portugal national team when he was MU player. With them, Portugal were in 2nd place in Euro 2004 and 4th place in World Cup 2006. As Madrid player, Portugal were in 3rd place in Euro 2012.
It is hard to conclude anything straightly from here. Football is a team game and winning more trophies doesn’t make a player is better than another. While he competed in more competitive EPL, he fought against one of best side in history i.e. Barcelona. Also, in national team, he enjoyed playing with the remnants of Portugal golden generation in 2004 and the squad was way better than Ronaldo has now. It is still too early to judge Ronaldo by these facts.
It was only logical for him to win more individual titles back then in England as MU won more titles than Madrid. It is also helepd by the fact that more individual awards are provided in English Premier League (such as Player of the Month). But, Ronaldo scores more goals and assists in Madrid than he did in MU. He scored 117 goals and 65 assists with Red Devil in 6 seasons while the tally is 233 goals and 71 assists with Los Blancos in 4.5 seasons.
He won more individual prestiges in MU, but he is by far the more productive player in Madrid as provided by the fact. Again, these facts must be interpreted carefully. The situation in England (as mentioned in previous paragraph) helped him to win more individual titles. On the other hand, the domestic competition in Spain has wider disparities among big and small clubs that he can score more easily against lesser teams. Still, too difficult to deduct anything about Ronaldo development from these facts.
Now the comparison move from quantitative parameters to qualitative one. Stochasticly, current Ronaldo is better goalscorer than he was. Again, remember the fact that La Liga has bigger quality gap among the competitors. Safe to say that Ronaldo’s goalscoring ability (e.g shooting, finishing etc) doesn’t decline, but it doesn’t imply he is far better goalscorer. Well, perhaps somewhere in the middle.
The most declining aspect of Ronaldo’s game is his ability to beat his marker with ball. Everybody remembers how mesmerizing was Ronaldo in red shirt when he glued the ball on his feet, doing millions step-overs and tricks before leaving the defenders in his wake. We see it no longer thanks to Mourinho. Not saying that his dribbling is awful, he still keeps the ball well in his possession, but obviously he cannot trick the defenders like he used to do.
Another declining aspect is his freekick. Currently, Ronaldo has amassed 20 direct freekick goals with Real Madrid. Great statistic, but he is too wasteful with his deadball scenario. Whoscored recorded in 2012 that he scored 15 goals from 179 attempts. There is no data about his freekick goals-attempts ratio when he was in MU, but seems he wasn’t this wasteful.
Ronaldo and MU enjoyed their best game in 2008 when the former played with Rooney and Tevez. How he moved is almost similar to how he does currently : starts from left and then drifts to middle. The difference is the young Ronaldo had more flexibility in position. While being left inverted winger/inside forward was his basic position, not seldom did we see he operated at center, at right flank, or even coming deep to pick up the ball. It is different with current Ronaldo where he is pretty much nailed as left inverted winger.
But, he makes it up with his better off-the-ball movement especially in counter-attack. Being fast is not the only thing in counter-attacking, but being efficient as well. Ronaldo can find space and capitalize it in fraction of second and with minimal movement. Ronaldo had been a fast player even at the time he entered English football scene in the game against Bolton, but his counter-attacking movement wasn’t as sharp as it is now.
Decisiveness is the most improving aspect of Ronaldo’s game. By being decisive, it means how he contributes massively in important moment in important match. It doesn’t imply that Ronaldo was big-match flop. No, really. But, in recent years, he performs better in big matches relative to the back-then.
His first major tournament with Portugal was in Euro 2004 when he emerged as sensational 19 years old wonderkid. So full of talent he was that Luis Figo expressed his admiration publicly. But, eventually Portugal could only reach 2nd place position beaten by miraculous Greece who managed to limit Ronaldo’s involvement in the game. At the same year, Ronaldo also participated in Summer Olympics only to crash in group stage embarassingly. And, where are we at now ? Ronaldo was the key man in helping Portugal to make it to the World Cup 2014 main stage. In home-away legs against Sweden, Ronaldo scored 4 goals; a solitary strike in sealing 1-0 victory and sensational hattrick in 2-3 victory in Sweden.
Remember when Ronaldo apologized to Sporting faithful when he scored a winning strike against them ? He did it even more ruthlessly as Madrid routed MU when he scored an equaliser. After the controversial redcard to Nani, the Old Trafford public was fully against Madrid, but somehow Ronaldo managed to keep his head cool and slotted the ball into the back of the net against his beloved former club. Remember when Ronaldo missed the penalty in Moscow against Chelsea in UCL 2008 final? Remember when Ronaldo was anonymous in the match against Barcelona in UCL 2009 final ? Remember when Ronaldo couldn’t score against Barcelona in his early career in Spain ? Now he is the demon for Blaugrana as he is the first player who scores in 6 consecutives El Clasicos.
But maybe Ronaldo could do better when it comes in temprament control. Recently, he was sent-off in a game against Bilbao, increasing his redcard tally to 4 in Madrid. The same number that he received when he played in MU. But in overall, Ronaldo has been maturing as he accumulates experience over years.
This is the most superior part of Ronaldo. He already had well-rounded physicality such as speed, strength, balance, and jumping, but he refines it even more under Mourinho tutelage. Ronaldo was already one of the fastest player in physical EPL, now perhaps he feels the La Liga world revolves in slow motion around him. From various clips, it can be seen that Ronaldo can cover 100 m distance in the scale of about 10-11 seconds. There is no data about his speed when he was in Manchester (as far as I know), but we believe he is the faster player, don’t we ?
You jump I jump ? Nope, you jump I fly
And who can forget the scene when Evra watched Ronaldo towering himself in a process leading to header goal ? It is almost similar when Ronaldo scored a goal against Chelsea in UCL 2008 final when he rose above Chelsea defence to score a header. The figure implies that Ronado already could jump with such height from 5 years ago. At very least, Ronaldo doesn’t show decline in aerial department and it is only logical that he improves, doesn’t it ?
Which is Better ?
Hard choice, but I would go for CR9 aka Cristiano Ronaldo in Madrid. He may lost his dribbling flair, but he makes it up with improvement in physicality and decisiveness. The latter is the most crucial development as great player are the one who matters in crucial moments, not in trashing against relegated teams.
Sidenote : it is too bad that Ronaldo’s development comes with the price of his ball technique. Having a superhuman speed and power is absolutely adventageous in football, but mind that they will deteriorate after the peak-age is reached. Now that Ronaldo is already 29 years old, he can only get slower and weaker in upcoming years. Right now, Messi and Ronaldo are neck to neck in their rivalry. But, in long term, Messi has greater chance to edge out Ronaldo as he is less reliant to his physicality. Well, perhaps Ronaldo should seek out advice from Ancelotti as he is the coach who can maximise the capability in the body of aging players.