Cristiano Ronaldo's lack of effectiveness from free-kicks has seemingly not gone unnoticed by Florentino Perez, and the Real Madrid president apparently wants Gareth Bale to take over as the primary taker.
Per Sport's Alejandro Alcazar, the Portuguese superstar has scored just three times from his last 100 free-kick attempts, hardly an acceptable return for any player, let alone one of Ronaldo's quality.
As a result, Perez suggested he now wants Welshman Bale to take over the free-kick taking, as he revealed in a recent exchange, per AS (via Sport): "You cannot sell Cristiano, he's Madrid's best player," he was told.
"Yes, but Bale takes the free-kicks, not Cristiano," Perez replied.
Ronaldo used to be lethal from dead-ball situations, first at Manchester United—where he honed his technique—and then in his early years at Madrid.
In the Champions League he has a fairly remarkable record, per WhoScored.com:
Cristiano Ronaldo: Has scored more goals from direct free-kicks (7) than any other team in the last 6 Champions League seasons2015-9-15 12:15:04
But his recent poor return from free-kicks is one of a number of indicators that he may be in decline.
The 31-year-old has still managed to score 30 goals in 29 games this season, but he has not found the net in any of Los Blancos' major matches against the likes of Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Villarreal, Valencia, Sevilla, Athletic Bilbao or Paris Saint-Germain, per Alcazar.
His goals have come in streaks—and exclusively at home in recent times—with Ronaldo struggling to make an impact on the road, per Bleacher Report's Sam Tighe:
Perez has reportedly been eyeing Barcelona's Neymar or Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski as long-term replacements for Ronaldo for some time, a signal of the former United's star's declining status at the Bernabeu, per Sport.
Ronaldo recently committed himself to the Madrid club until at least the end of his current contract, which expires in June of 2018, per Manu Sainz in AS.
However, if he is indeed taken off free-kicks, he is unlikely to be happy as he has been the main man at Real ever since he arrived in 2009.
It could inspire him to refind his impressive form and reclaim the dead-ball role once more, or it could push him closer to the exit door at Real.