Cristiano Ronaldo endured a disappointing end to his season as Portugal failed to advance from round-of-16 stage at the 2018 World Cup. The 33-year-old entered the competition with momentum having helped guide Real Madrid to their third-straight Champions League crown.
Ronaldo operated at the peak of the powers in the Selecao’s opening game of the 2018 World Cup. He scored a brilliant hat-trick, including a last-minute free-kick, to earn his team a point against Spain. His early goal against Morocco was enough to deliver Portugal’s first win of the tournament, although it was all downhill from there.
The 33-year-old missed a penalty against Iran, which sent Fernando Bento’s men into a round-of-16 clash against Uruguay rather than Russia. Ronaldo was ineffectual in the contest against Uruguay, failing to make an impact in the final third as Edinson Cavani’s brace sent the Selecao out of the competition. Although the forward was part of the squad that won Euro 2016, he has not been able to display his full talent on the world stage and the 2018 World Cup may well have been his last opportunity to add the crown to the collection of his titles.
Ronaldo will now return to Real Madrid where he refused to commit his future to the club following their triumph over Liverpool in the Champions League final. Julen Lopetegui takes the reins following Zinedine Zidane’s decision to step down. Lopetegui has a massive challenge on his hand, inheriting a squad that appears to be ageing, while its key stars Ronaldo along with Gareth Bale have suggested that their futures lay away from the Bernabeu. As a result of the uncertainty Madrid are backed in the latest La Liga betting odds at 5/4 to win the Spanish crown behind Barcelona.
Although the club have dominated the Champions League for the past three seasons along with winning the La Liga title in the 2016/17 campaign, their future does not seem clear at the moment. Ronaldo, Bale and Karim Benzema are either mulling leaving Madrid or heading towards the twilight of their careers. The same could be said for Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric, who are more than capable of maintaining their levels of excellence, although father time will be against them sooner rather than later. Therefore Lopetegui and the club’s hierarchy have a big decision to make regarding the fate of their core players.
They made need to make those decisions sooner rather than later as prices continue to rise and leaving moves to the end could be costly. Ronaldo holds the key as he if maintains his scoring form through the middle of the team it will buy Madrid valuable time. Kylian Mbappe has been one of the stars of the 2018 World Cup and only moved to Paris Saint-Germain last season. However, it would not be a surprise if Lopetegui and Madrid’s hierarchy were to look to the Frenchman as Ronaldo’s successor. Ronaldo was not overly welcoming to Bale’s move to the club, but the age of 33, he may be accepting