Cristiano Ronaldo has been ageing like a fine wine over the last five years.
The five-time Ballon d'Or winner is now closer to his 40th birthday than his 30th, but continues to prove himself as one of the best footballers on the planet with his ability to keep father time at bay.
It's a situation made all the more incredible by his decision to swap Real Madrid for Juventus just over two years ago, taking on a change of style and environment so late in his career.
Ronaldo getting better with age
Truth be told, while his first season was still pretty staggering, it nonetheless marked a decline in the sort of numbers we'd seen Ronaldo produce at the Bernabeu - was it the beginning of the end?
Was it heck? Ronaldo showed no signs of second-season-syndrome in Turin, romping his way to a brilliant record of 37 goals from 46 appearances to compete for the European Golden Shoe.
And the Portuguese has picked up from he left off with a fantastic start to life under Andrea Pirlo, boasting a Serie A tally of eight strikes that can only be topped by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Ronaldo's free-kick struggles
All the while, Ronaldo doesn't seem to have slowed down one iota or seen his iconic jump descend any sooner, making us believe more than ever that he could still be playing into his forties.
However, at the expense of sounding like a party pooper, there is an elephant in the room when it comes to how Ronaldo's game has changed as he gets older: free-kicks.
It was well publicised that when Ronaldo crashed home a glorious free-kick against Torino in the summer, despite having been in Italy for around two years, it was first conversion for Juve.
In fact, you had to traipse all the way back to the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup final for his last free-kick goal outside of the international game and his record in league football has been ever poorer.
Analysis of Ronaldo's free-kicks
It's a worrying trend that has been substantiated in The Athletic this week, taking a deep-dive into Ronaldo's free-kick statistics as an anomalous area in which he's declined.
An excerpt goes as follows: "Combined, those two figures of attempts and goals paint a picture of a player who’s always tried to score plenty of free kicks but has been so-so at converting them.
"Overall, his conversion rate is six per cent but when you consider that the five-year Premier League average is 9.2 per cent, perhaps this is the one area of Ronaldo’s game that he’s failed to truly analyse and improve as he’s got older: since 2016-17 he’s scored just two goals from 68 attempts."
You can check out their full article analysing the 2020 iteration of Ronaldo here.
There's no denying it's a bizarre quirk of Ronaldo career: once so lethal with his trademark knuckle-ball technique and now, conversions are becoming something of a collector's item.
Either way, his overall free-kick record, complete with Real and Manchester United screamers, will stand the test of time, but it seems to be another data-set in which Lionel Messi is breathing down his neck.News Now - Sport News