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From CR7 to CR9 - Ronaldo's game is changing to allow him to stay at the top

BeSoccer by BeSoccer @besoccer_com - 0 2,087

Pin Ronaldo Bartra Real Madrid Borussia Dortmund Champions League
Ronaldo Bartra Real Madrid Borussia Dortmund Champions League

From CR7 to CR9 - Ronaldo's game is changing to allow him to stay at the top

BeSoccer by BeSoccer @besoccer_com - 0 2,087

From an explosive winger the Portugal international now plays almost as an orthodox centre-forward, and it is a change that has allowed him to stay on top of the game

Just a short year ago it looked as though Cristiano Ronaldo's time at the top of football's elite might be coming to an end. Lionel Messi had just picked up his fifth Ballon d'Or, while the Portuguese toiled under the orders of Rafa Benitez whiile Real Madrid floundered. 

But 12 months later the tables have turned, and Ronaldo has proved the naysayers wrong. The famous No. 7 lifted a fourth Ballon d'Or, his third in four years and fitting reward for a golden 2016 that included a new deal with Madrid that basically equates to a 'contract for life'. The star came out firing to prove that there is still a lot to come from him yet despite approaching his 32nd birthday, an age which inevitably marks the beginning of the end for most great players.

The Ronaldo of 2016, however, is not the same player as the one that first walked through the gates of the Santiago Bernabeu. "Why shouldn't I think of a change of position?" was the rhetorical question he posed during an interview with France Football to commemorate his Ballon d'Or victory last week. The forward will never stop trying to better himself, that much is clear.

Now, however, might be the time to take on a new role in order to keep giving his best week-in, week-out.

Cristiano, according to every available statistical analysis, abandoned his signature position of explosive winger some time ago. He is now an out-and-out centre-forward: the vast majority of his goals now come from inside the area, from just one or two touches on the ball. Those are characteristics that belong to a No. 9, not a marauding No. 7 as the player once was. 

That tendency has only heightened under the tutelage of Zinedine Zidane, to the extent that his play draws certain comparisons with his namesake and Zizou's former Madrid team-mate from Brazil in his final years. It is a position that requires him to cover less ground, defend less and rely on his goalscoring instincts to make the difference. The goal he netted on Thursday to down Club America in the Club World Cup showed his evolution perfectly. 

It is also a position that will allow Cristiano to prolong his time at the top, while his physical attributes begin their slow but inevitable deterioration. Carlo Ancelotti used to call him the 'bomb' during his time at Madrid, but this Ronaldo is less explosive, even if there is little effect on his prodigious scoring record.

Whatever his position on the field, it is also undeniable that Ronaldo's role within the Madrid team itself has also undergone a slow evolution. From a player respected primarily for his talents, he has now become recognised as a standard-bearer at the club, a captain without the armband and spokesman both on and off the pitch.

He may often be regarded as overly concentrated on individual goals, but nobody can doubt Ronaldo's commitment to the Merengue cause over the last seven years. And regardless of whether he stars out on the flank or inside the area, his continued excellence in front of goal and a renewed contract shows that he will remain the Spanish giants' figurehead and spiritual leader on the field for some time yet. 

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