"It is impossible to follow Cristiano Ronaldo. When we arrive, he is already training, when we leave he is still training, I have never seen a player like that". That’s how Douglas Costa described his first few days of training alongside the Portuguese superstar after the duo returned from their post-World Cup vacations and started their pre-season in Turin.
Plenty has been said and written about CR7’s work ethic and professionalism over the years and it is clear that this hasn’t changed since he moved to Juventus this summer. The move was a clear sign that the Bianconeri will be chasing their third Champions League trophy next term, but also that they want to extend their domestic dominance beyond the seven straight Scudetti that they already conquered.
On the other hand, alongside the team targets, one of Ronaldo’s main personal challenges will be to replicate his phenomenal goalscoring displays from England and Spain. There is little doubt that the ex-Real Madrid superstar is already thinking about grabbing the Capocannoniere award at the end of the campaign, but he should know that doing that will be far from easy.
In the last few seasons Serie A has changed rapidly, as the English-speaking media’s favourite myth of catenaccio and dull 0-0 draws has long been forgotten on the peninsula. However, Serie A is still not La Liga and Juventus, despite all of their attacking talent, will never be able to play Real Madrid’s brand of football. Many Italian teams still play much more defensively compared to most of the La Liga sides and considering that this will be Ronaldo’s first season in Italy, don’t be too surprised to see him struggle initially, as even he will need some time to adapt.
Ronaldo is too good to be written off from the Capocannoniere race so easily, but Massimiliano Allegri’s habit of rotating players and resting key figures in certain games also has to be taken under consideration. CR7’s enormous ego is no secret and while he would probably want to play every game, he is intelligent enough to know that this is not best for him nor for Juventus. As fit as he is, Ronaldo is 33-years-old, which means that Allegri will need to manage him smartly, in order to get the best out of him in the big games.
Considering that Inter have improved vastly and added more creativity and support around Mauro Icardi, the Nerazzurri captain will undoubtedly be amongst the Capocannoniere favorites as well. It’s been a while since Inter had to think about Champions League games, so it will be interesting to see how Luciano Spalletti will be managing his team and if he will dare to rest Icardi in some Serie A matches.
Dries Mertens was in contention for the award in the last few seasons and the 31-year-old might do the same this term. However, the Belgian’s chances have probably decreased drastically after Ancelotti’s arrival, due to Carleto’s preference of using a classic centre forward, which can potentially put Arkadiusz Milik in the running. The Poland international has plenty to prove after his tremendous start of his Serie A life, was interrupted by a series of horrible injuries.
Ciro Immobile is another player capable of snapping up the award, as the former Torino forward is continuing to impress domestically. Lazio’s mercato went under the radar, but the Biancocelesti added the incredibly creative Joaquin Correa, as well as a solid defensive midfielder like Milan Badelj, which will make their team compact and might give Immobile a perfect partner upfront.
Another forward in Rome might be in the Capocannoniere running at the end of the season, as if Roma’s risky policy of betting on young players pays off and their attacking prodigies manage to deliver, Edin Dzeko can take advantage. The Bosnian’s struggles during his debut Serie A campaign have long been forgotten, as he has once more become the ruthless finisher he was in Germany and England.
Last but not least, Gonzalo Higuain will be highly motivated to prove his worth and show Juventus they were wrong to let him go so easily. Similarly to Dzeko, Il Pipita’s success will heavily depend on Milan’s core of young players, but the early signs look promising. The 30-year-old looked as hungry and as fit as ever when he showed up at Milanello after his controversial move to the Rossoneri.
It’s also been a while since we had an unlikely winner of the prize. Let’s not rule out the possibility of a new Dario Hubner or Cristiano Lucarelli to dazzle Serie A and surprise everyone.
Overall, it can be concluded that the Capocannoniere race is wide open and if Ronaldo doesn’t hit the ground running right away, there are plenty of proven goalscorers that can overtake him. If Ronaldo adjusts his game in order to fit Juve’s typical hardworking team ethics his chances could be harmed even further. Combined with Allegri’s tendency of rotating key players, especially against the lesser teams, the award might just slip out of CR7’s grasp.
Anyway, let’s not forget this is Cristiano Ronaldo we are talking about - a 5 time Ballon d’Or winner and arguably the best finisher on the planet. He’ll always remain the favourite.