The Portuguese great was one of the deadliest dead ball manipulators in the game, and he would almost always make the opponent pay for fouls committed within his colossal range.
His knuckleball technique, which was groundbreaking at the time, allowed him to hammer them in from any distance or angle.
Unfortunately, Ronaldo's magical prowess with the dead ball seemed to have utterly deserted him as his career progressed. It can't be a lack of confidence; after all, this is Ronaldo, and you'd think he'd only get better with age.
So, what's causing Ronaldo's frightening dip in free-kick goals, which has dropped from 44 in his first 12 seasons to just nine since 2014?
Dr. Rajpal Brar, a sports scientist, has gone a long way to describe it in a fascinating in-depth video released in 2020. You can see it in the image below:
While Ronaldo's free-kick power hasn't lessened, Dr. Brar believes that one of the elements contributing to his decline is a sudden lack of lift and lack of surprising movement.
While there are no visible differences in Ronaldo's approach to the ball or technique, microelements such as swing leg velocity, trunk angle, and ball spin-rate in play could be contributing to his inability to get the ball up and down.
Don't blame the ball.
While there is lots of evidence that a football's structure and makeup can significantly impact its flight patterns, there is no proof that anything changed before or after Ronaldo's fall.
The progress in ball technology has not been as swift or paradigm-shifting as during Ronaldo's spectacular first 12 seasons when he was routinely scoring free-kicks.
Is it injuries?
In the years since his dead-ball prowess began to diminish, Ronaldo has endured an increased amount of lower-body injuries. Still, as Dr. Brar correctly points out, if that were the cause of his free-kick decrease, it would be visible in other elements of his game as well.
Instead, the excellent doctor believes that the injuries will initially hinder Ronaldo but that the snowball effect of multiple misses will have a severe psychological impact on his mentality.
Change in Routine
Breaking the negative cycle his current routine may have buried him in was offered as one strategy to overcome his troubles. Dr. Brar recommends simplifying the entire process, which may cause 'over-thinking anxiety,' instead of boiling it down to its essence.
He cites NBA player DeAndre Jordan as an example of how, after struggling with his typical free-throw routine, he completely changed it and had excellent success. He also proposes switching from a knuckleball strategy to a Lionel Messi-style approach.
Finally, the tape is intriguing to watch and goes a long way toward understanding why Ronaldo's free-kick ability plummeted after 2014. However, the Portuguese superstar hasn't let it stop him from continuing to amaze us with his incredible skill and talent.