As Joao Cancelo rolled the ball across the face of goal, a packed Juventus Stadium held its collective breath. Flocking to Turin from across the globe, this was the moment the fans – and indeed the larger-than-usual number of media members in attendance – had been waiting for. An open goal beckoned, yet somehow Cristiano Ronaldo inexplicably failed to do the one thing he has consistently done better than anyone else for years; he simply couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.
It was a tap-in, but the Portuguese star kicked the ball off his own leg, eventually gifting Mario Mandzukic with what must rank among the easiest goals the veteran striker has ever scored. Ronaldo was credited with an assist, but his frustration was clear as he threw his arms up in despair, a reaction that stood in stark contrast to the joy he showed when Miralem Pjanic opened the scoring earlier in the evening.
A 2-0 win over Lazio and a 3-2 victory away at Chievo have seen Juventus make a bright start to 2018-19, but CR7 has played all 180 minutes and has yet to get his name on the score sheet. Both games saw journalists who are rarely present follow the team home and away, eagerly waiting to pen articles reacting to Ronaldo’s first competitive goal in a Bianconero shirt.
Many expected it would come easily for a man who has scored a minimum of 42 times in each of the last eight seasons, leaving Real Madrid with a frankly unbelievable record of 450 goals in 438 appearances. With his final two years at Manchester United also seeing him score 68 times in just 102 games, it has been somewhat surprising that Chievo and Lazio both managed to shut out the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
But for now, nobody in Turin is panicking. “We’re talking about a player who has scored more than 500 goals, with exceptional qualities,” Juve legend Mauro Camoranesitold Tuttosportthis week. “Just because he didn’t score in his first two games, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just one of those things. He’ll score tons of goals before the end of the season.”
Max Allegri feels the same way, telling Sky Italia he was not concerned that his €112m signing remains goalless. “Italian football is completely different to in Spain, Ronaldo understands that, and he is settling in very well,” said the Juve boss. “He’s a very humble guy and I’m very pleased with the impact he’s made so far.”
That may well be the case, but everyone will feel infinitely better when this mini-drought comes to a close. This weekend sees the Bianconeri travel to Parma and then there is the international break, meaning if he doesn’t net at the Tardini, it will already be September when they next take to the field.
Considering how many were already placing bets on Gonzalo Higuain's all-time Serie A record of 36 goals in a single season being shattered, it's a sign that he can't simply waltz into Italian football and take over.
For Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus fans everywhere, the wait continues.