The changing of managers at Real Madrid brings with it a different tactical approach, and with it somewhat of a change for Cristiano Ronaldo, but as Carlo Ancelotti knows and will follow, there isn’t going to be one specific role he’ll fill. Limiting one of the two best players in the world doesn’t seem like a good idea anyway.
The love of Ancelotti to somewhat of 4-4-2 systems has everyone thinking about Cristiano Ronaldo playing as a supporting striker instead of on the left wing. As in his first season in Madrid under Manuel Pellegrini, and as in certain matches last season under Mourinho, Ronaldo isn’t as effective as someone posing as the target man. Playing on the wing allows him freedom, even if it forces him sometimes to do defense. Playing in the middle makes it easier for defenders to limit him.
Ronaldo can’t be stopped by just one player. The most efficient coverage of him is when he plays on the left involve an athletic, focused and disciplines right back, with the help of either a centre back or a defensive midfielder to force Ronaldo to give up the ball when he makes his cuts to the middle.
Ronaldo needs room to operate – on the counter attack and to get behind a defender in one on ones. In the middle, that space just isn’t there for him. He’s not as good as Messi when operating in crowded rooms. His advantages are physical, despite his incredible technique. Once you take away that space from him, things become slightly easier, although there are the other Real Madrid players to worry about.
Ronaldo has played at both positions so far this preseason under Ancelotti, who has been switching formations during the matches, usually beginning with Ronaldo on the left, lined up, more or less, parallel to two attacking midfielders and another player on the right wing. In the second half it’s usually something we are more used to seeing from Ancelotti teams, with Ronaldo moving next to one of the strikers, while the players taking up the wider positions are usually attacking midfielders out-of-position.
It’s not just about putting on the best tactic that gets the best out of him. It’s about making him happy. Still, after all this time, Ronaldo hasn’t signed an extension, which would be for record breaking numbers. The Manchester United threat is still around, but without Alex Ferguson, it’s a lot less stronger than before. David Moyes failed with Thiago and Fabregas – why should he succeed with Ronaldo, if he’ll still be United’s manager by 2015?
Gareth Bale or not, the most important player on this team is going to be Cristiano Ronaldo. But as we’ve seen so many times, even an incredible Ronaldo isn’t enough without his teammates – Mesut Ozil, Karim Benzema and Isco (new face) stepping up when teams make it harder on him. Ronaldo playing on the left wing might not be what’s usually seen from Ancelotti, but if it’s what keep him happy, Ancelotti will suck up his pride and let this star do whatever he likes.