Real Madrid’s scoreless draw with PSG on Wednesday highlighted Cristiano Ronaldo’s extended struggle in an area where he once dazzled. Cristiano has only scored two of his last 89 direct free kicks — a far cry from the days earlier in his career when he would knock them in from any angle and at any distance. And yet, he keeps taking them and he keeps squandering them.
Why? Well, the short answer to both questions is “because he’s Cristiano Ronaldo.” But the longer answer to why he doesn’t score more of them is because it’s become too easy. This is a man who has scored a club record 324 goals in 311 matches for Real Madrid when it took Raul 741 matches to score 323 times despite his free-kick cold streak.
If he can score that many with the ball in motion and opposing players actively trying to defend him, a free shot at a stationary ball is flat out boring and borderline insulting. It’s like playing FIFA on the easiest difficulty setting. Sure you can bang in 100 goals that way, but it’s far more satisfying to score three on the hardest setting you can, so that’s what you do.
It’s the same for Lionel Messi with penalties. He misses them because he’s Lionel Messi and scoring penalties is like taking Lego pieces from a baby to him. He could do it all the time, but it just feels dirty when he does.
So if Cristiano doesn’t want to pad out his already overstuffed stats with a regular infusion of free kick goals, why does he continue to take them? Because he would look like a coward if he ducked them. How could the great Cristiano Ronaldo pass up the opportunity to have everyone in the stadium stop and focus solely on him? It’s far worse to be thought of as being afraid of the spotlight than to blast a few free kicks into the wall and then score four times from the run of play.
And that’s it. They’re too easy to score and too important not to take, leaving him in this situation where he wastes free kick after free kick. Again, a bit like Messi and his penalties (Ronaldo presumably makes penalties at a higher rate because at that distance he sees it as rude not to…and it gives him a chance to make Messi look bad).
Of course, another possibility is that David Beckham asked him to cool it with the spectacular free kick goals because that’s his “thing” and Cristiano generously decided to let him have that.