What makes Cristiano Ronaldo’s off-the-ball movement so special

Putting aside the age-old debate of who is the best – Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, let’s simply take a look at why the 35-year-old Portuguese is so dangerous in the six-yard box. Be it CR7 or LM10, their split-second decision making or presence of mind on the field makes them different from most players, and perhaps that is why they have dominated the world of soccer for nearly 2 decades.

Ronaldo, four-time Ballon d’Or winner, has played for 4 teams across Europe. His anticipation of where a cross or pass will land is clearly unbelievable. But it’s the Portuguese No 7’s split-second in-game intelligence that really stands out.

Ronaldo is second to none when it comes to finding room on a football pitch. Especially when it comes to crowded penalty areas.

Rather than relying on pace only, Ronaldo bursts through defensive lines just at the moment a team steps up, or makes zigzag runs or make sudden movements away from defenders to create space.

Even at 35, his fitness regime and his belief to do better in every game, is still giving him an edge over younger players. The Juventus striker, who was out of the game after contracting coronavirus recently, marked his emphatic comeback in Serie A.

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Looking at his run, piercing through the defenders, it never seemed he was out of the game even for a bit. Juventus were 1-1 against Spezia when Ronaldo came off the bench in the 56th minute and – just three minutes later – he split the opposition defenders wide open with a run, then scoring.

To put the icing on the cake, he also scored from the spot with a Panenka. Juventus finished the match 4-1.

His world-class intelligence behind his off-the-ball movement is a crucial part of what makes Ronaldo one of the all-time greats.