Did Jose Mourinho's Tactics Help Cristiano Ronaldo Flourish at Real Madrid?

Samuel Marsden@@samuelmarsdenFeatured ColumnistJune 18, 2013

LA CORUNA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 23:  Head coach Jose Mourinho (L) of Real Madrid CF gives instructions to Cristiano Ronaldo (2ndl) on the desk during the La Liga match between RC Deportivo La Coruna and Real Madrid CF at Riazor Stadium on February 23, 2013 in La Coruna, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

In an interview with Spanish television program Punto Pelota, via football-espana.net, a couple of weeks ago, Jose Mourinho gave himself some of the credit for Cristiano Ronaldo's extreme goal scoring exploits over the past few seasons: 

“He has played three fantastic seasons for me, I do not know if they are the best of his career, but we have found for him a fantastic tactical situation to express his full potential and to express that in goals.”

The implication is that Mourinho feels his tactics have allowed Ronaldo the freedom to perform as well as he has done—that he has done his job, in getting the best out of one of his players, in other words.

But did the 50-year-old help Ronaldo hit heights which would have been unattainable on his own? Or would anyone have been able to draw these performances out of Madrid's No. 7 these past few seasons?

The numbers certainly reveal that the Portuguese forward has peaked under Mourinho.

From the beginning of the 2006/07 season, while still playing for Manchester United, through to the end of the 2009/10 season, his first in Spain, Ronaldo managed 123 goals in 188 club appearances.

During the three seasons in which he worked for "The Happy One," as he is now known, the 28-year-old scored 168 goals in 164 games for los Blancos.

Those figures could of course be coincidental. Ronaldo was 25 at the start of that period, and these past three seasons have definitely fallen during some of his peak years—plus, despite only winning one league, Real Madrid have been a much more dominant force in la Liga than Manchester United were in the Premier League (points and goals scored considered).

Adding weight to Mourinho's comments though, is the fact that Ronaldo has flattered to deceive for Portugal in competitive matches this season. During qualifiers for the World Cup, which have fallen in the 2012/13 season, he has registered just one goal in six games.

Under Mourinho, Madrid often favored a fast-paced, counter-attacking style which did suit the likes of Ronaldo and Angel di Maria particularly well. But it is true he also began leaning on Ronaldo more and more as his tenure grew at the Bernabeu.

In El Clasico last October, at Camp Nou, Ronaldo was given so much freedom that he actually spent more than 30 percent of the match centrally—reducing some of the work available to Karim Benzema, who started as the lone forward that night.

It's a trend which continued throughout the season. Ronaldo played more games than any other Madrid player and, with an average of 6.9 shots per game, via whoscored.com—Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain averaged 2.1 and 2.0 respectively—became the focus of Mourinho's attacking intentions.

Continuing his interview with Punto Pelota, via football-espana.net, Mourinho did admit that he and Ronaldo had a small fall out towards the end of his time working in the Spanish capital:

“We have had a very basic problem with him—I criticized him at a tactical level and at that time he did not take it very well. He did not accept my words."

This could lead to the suggestion that Ronaldo merely did what he wanted, with Mourinho happy to let him start on the left of the attacking triumvirate, before having a free roam of the pitch—then when Mourinho tried to insist on some form of tactical discipline, they fell out.

Ronaldo's a rare talent, and it is pretty hard to tell how much of an effect Mourinho had on helping him reach the levels he has reached these past few seasons.

The two men who could give us an honest answer, Ronaldo and Mourinho themselves, are unlikely to give a straight answer either. Perhaps if Ronaldo flops next season under a new manager, at Real Madrid or elsewhere, we will then know how much extra Jose was getting out of him—if anything. 

All goal totals taken from transfermarkt.co.uk 

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