How Ronaldo's role as a 'No.9' has evolved: a look at the stats

While Cristiano Ronaldo is still finding his feet in his new role as a centre-forward, the stats show that it's a transformation that's been gradual through a progressive variation of position.

Cristiano Ronaldo se ha ido amoldando a una nueva posición, delantero centro.

Real Madrid-Deportivo La Coruña

Cristiano Ronaldo’s transformation into a centre forward is becoming more evident with each game that passes. While his zone of influence has shrunk, on the other hand, he has multiplied his presence in the area. The evolution towards this role of a classic striker is reflected in the progressive variation of the position which he has traditionally employed since joining Real Madrid in 2009.

33% 'centre-forward' goals in 2008/09, 66% this season 

The CR7 Real Madrid evolution

In his first season, he netted 33 times, 11 of which were from the centre forward position (33% of the total). This season, Cristiano has so far found the back of the net on 12 occasions. Eight have occurred from this same zone (66%) and nine from just a single touch (75%). The shift in these percentages since 2008 is remarkable, with the weight of his figures in the centre forward ‘action zone’ having practically increased season-by-season.

More goals with one touch 

Ronaldo’s adaption to this new role as a ‘Number 9’ was perhaps best seen, in terms of goals, during the Ancelotti’s last season (2014-15). Cristiano won the Golden Boot with 48 strikes in the league, finding 41 of them with one touch (85%). This statistic differs with his numbers in LaLiga during his first year at Real Madrid: 16 of the 26 domestic goals he scored came from one touch (61% of the total). This unstoppable trend has risen just as Ronaldo’s ability to score from outside the area has diminished.

Fewer dribbles and crosses 

Ronaldo is attempting fewer driblles and crosses

Today, Cristiano is stepping more and more into the area and moving further away from the extremities of the field. This is a fact demonstrated by another look at the statistics: he attempted more shots from outside the box than inside it during his first two campaigns (135 to 108 in 2009-10, 167 to 157 in 2010-11). In addition, Ronaldo’s average of completed dribbles has also lessened gradually over the seasons along with his number of crosses.

Still finding his feet in new habitat 

"Playing up front is not my position," Cristiano warned before signing in 2009. However, the Portuguese seems to have understood this transformation process as a necessity. Messi has had to do the same, dropping further back instead of going forward and losing his edge as a scorer while enlarging his numbers of assists. However, while Messi has adapted successfully, Cristiano is still finding his feet in a new habitat.