According to the numbers, Cristiano Ronaldo is wasteful

Over the weekend following a 0-1 loss to crosstown rival Atletico Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo criticized his teammates for not performing at his level citing “the numbers”. The Portuguese superstar added that statistics never lie. Later, he attempted to clarify he meant his teammates were not on his level in terms of match fitness due to injury. By then, however, word of the forward’s criticism of his teammates had made its way around the world.

That was not the first time Ronaldo has made such statements. Notably just over a year ago, fans and media joined Ronaldo in his criticisms following a 3-0 drubbing of Espanyol. Gareth Bale missed a goalscoring opportunity during that match, one many believed Ronaldo would have scored had Bale passed the him the ball. Fans and media cried out that the Welshman was a ball hog.

Ronaldo may be right about his teammates not being on the same level; in fact, he may be a cut below his teammates. Ronaldo urged that the numbers be examined, so let’s do just that.

Below is data from the group stage of Champions League, where Real Madrid did quite well, but Ronaldo maybe not have done as well as he might remember. The graph shows the number of shots Ronaldo took on the Y-axis, and the distance in yards from goal from which he took those shots is on the X-axis. The color scale, red to green, shows us the expected goal value as a percentage of the shots he took.

CR_ShotQbyDistance
Data provided by Opta

Ronaldo took 49 shots in 6 games, but many of those come from distance – and are very poor chances. In the graphic above, you see 21 shots from more than 20 yards away from goal. He has a single goal from those 21 shots. A majority of his shots then turn out to be mostly wasted possessions – as the likelihood of any of those shots turning into a goal is very small. Even for Ronaldo.

We also know from the data that Ronaldo is rarely an assister, but he benefits frequently from the work of his teammates essentially creating a one dimensional attack for Los Blancos. Perhaps it is time for Ronaldo to get on level with his peers in Europe.