Doubts raised over Cristiano as man to lead Juventus to glory
The elimination of the Vecchia Signora in the Coppa Italia at the hands of Atalanta has reignited the debate in Italy over the influence of their new star.
The elimination of Juventus in the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia has had many in Italy rethinking some of the beliefs around the Vecchia Signora. And new talisman, Cristiano Ronaldo, is not beyond their questioning.
Cristiano: saviour or needing saved?
The performance of the Portuguese forward, who had an impressive first half of the season, is always analysed in detail. This happens through the good times and the bad, and for this reason his drop in form over the first five games of the calendar year has not been overlooked.
Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport ran with a story following the 3-0 reverse at the hands of Atalanta confirming for its readers that Cristiano was indeed 'only too human', an expression that perfectly sums up his performance as insufficient when, if it were any other player, it would be more than acceptable. It's the expectation level that the number seven has set for himself. And he is not only seen as the shining star of the team; since arriving from Real Madrid he has been labeled the man destined to take the Italian giants back to the pinnacle of European club football, by winning the Champions League. That will be the true measure of his value to the club - rightly or wrongly - and so this domestic cup disappointment shouldn't be dwelled on for long. However, there are certainly more doubts than before about whether or not he can lead them to the holy grail.
Gazzetta base their questioning of the superstar on some statistical analysis. In the game against Atalanta he only managed nine good passes, which does point to the difficulty with which he was able to link up with teammates in Bergamo, but does not reflect a trend in Cristiano's general play. That, it is acknowledged, is actually better than when compared to his final season for Real Madrid.
More data. In his last four years at Real Madrid he averaged between 1.2 and 1.5 clear chances at goal per game. This year in Serie A that figure has dropped to under one. Similarly, his presence in the opposition penalty area has fallen, from between 7.3 and 9.3 touches of the ball per game with Los Blancos to an average of 6.5 with The Old Lady.
Home from home for Cristiano
Possibly most alarming are the numbers pulled together for games played at the Juventus Stadium. In the 11 Serie A matches in front of his home fans, Cristiano has only scored in four. Despite this, Juventus have still maintained their 100% record in Turin. Away from home, the story is very different. The Portugal legend has scored in eight of the ten games, almost as if acting as an insurance policy for his team. The year 2019 has started quietly for the attacker, however this is not the first time that it has happened to him, and he's been able to turn it around.
Cristiano's numbers in his first season do not have the alarm bells ringing, just yet. The Coppa may have gone - taking with it the chance to grab an elusive treble - but the league title is almost guaranteed, allowing Allegri to focus his resources on the Champions League. The clarity around Juve's great new hope turning an acceptable season into an historic one has been clouded in recent weeks. As he showed for Madrid, though, and last season more than ever, he has a knack of lifting those clouds when it really matters, and that leads to lifting silverware.