Cristiano Ronaldo’s romantic and nostalgic return to Manchester United last summer put the league on notice that the Red Devils meant business and was a sign that they were in the fight for the title. But it was not the fairytale story that United fans were hoping for.
Since the momentous unveiling of the Portuguese icon at Old Trafford, the 13-time Premier League champions have been in turmoil and reports suggest that Ronaldo wants out as he chases down one more league or European trophy to further cement his legendary status.
The 37-year-old told Man U that he wanted to leave but with little to no movement for him in the transfer market over the past few weeks, the chances of that happening are looking less likely by the day. New boss Erik ten Hag is scheduled to hold talks with the forward with hopes of keeping his services for at least one more season. With a relationship between player and club on thin ice he looks destined for the exit if not soon then certainly come the end of the season, but who will snap up the goalscoring phenomenon should he look elsewhere?
Where could he go?
It goes without saying that Ronaldo’s presence was vital for United last season, his overall goalscoring record to date speaks for itself but without his goal contributions specifically last season, United would have finished just 10 points above the relegation zone; a truly unfathomable outcome for the Manchester giants. The level of performance he maintains as an outfield player just three years away from his 40th birthday is outrageous and it is still feasible that he could still go well into his 40s. With that said, several titans of world football are ready to swoop in for the superstar.
The fairy-tale return to United hasn’t gone to plan but a similarly nostalgic return to former club Real Madrid would surely see more silverware come his way. The Spanish giants have just won a LaLiga and Champions League double under Carlo Ancelotti and despite their immensely successful season they are in the market for another forward to support the likes of Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr after narrowly missing out on getting Kylian Mbappe’s signature. Who better for Los Blancos to bring through the door to forget about missing out on the Frenchman than the club’s all-time leading goalscorer? Whilst there is very little left for the Portuguese sensation to achieve in the Spanish capital, if it’s trophies he is looking for then there are few better options than Madrid.
Bayern Munich, despite public denials, will also be taking a keen interest in developments with Ronaldo’s future and are currently the frontrunners to land the forward’s signature according to these betting apps. Munich are known for smart moves in the transfer market, turning youngsters into European superstars. This transfer window might require a different tact from the German giants though after the departure of 33-year-old Robert Lewandowski. Julian Nagelsmann’s side now find themselves without an experienced focal point up the top end of the pitch and Ronaldo ticks all the boxes for the replacement they need. As is the case with all these deals it would only be short-term if it came to fruition, and while it is typically a deal that Bayern would stray away from, they would be more than happy to make an exception for one of the greatest players ever.
Paris Saint-Germain will of course be in the conversation to land Ronaldo’s signature before the Summer is up. The prospect of Ronaldo pairing up with Lionel Messi will have football fans the world over salivating, even if it is a few years down the road from the peak of their powers, and they certainly don’t lack ambition to win silverware which has often been the forward’s critique of United this past season. Furthermore they are one of very few clubs that would be able to afford his salary, especially with rumours circulating of the Parisian’s desire to sell Neymar in the short-term future. There are a few roadblocks to a move to France, primarily the fact that PSG as it stands simply do not need another attacking option in their squad, but stranger things have happened.
The outsiders to sign Ronaldo
Given the lack of decisive action on signing Ronaldo from Europe’s elite in the past few weeks he has now become odds-on to stay put at United but there is still plenty of time in the window yet and plenty of interest from teams you would not necessarily expect.
Ronaldo has previously spoken about returning to his roots before calling it a day on his illustrious career, so would he ever return to his boyhood club? Realistically, Sporting Clube de Portugal are not going to be winning the Champions League and winning the Portuguese domestic league will not be atop Ronaldo’s list of priorities. But Sporting remain an outside bet and as last summer proved, he is susceptible to a fairy-tale storyline and there would be none better than a symbolic ride into the sunset with his first professional club.
A move down south is not out the question though as Chelsea are a club with ambition, financial resources and a squad more than capable of competing at the level Ronaldo will be looking for. Furthermore, Todd Boehly has recently been in contact with Ronaldo’s agent as he seeks to find a suitable replacement for Romelu Lukaku further fuelling speculation of a move to another English powerhouse. Whilst the forward’s style of play may not sit well with boss Thomas Tuchel, he would still prove to be an invaluable asset in his side. The question would be whether United want to sell to another top six side for so little value in return other than some relief on the wage bill.
For the second time in the space of a year then it seems that Ronaldo is left with little room to manoeuvre. His desire to go is clear for everyone to see and there are certainly enough interested parties to keep the conversation ticking for the time being. However, as it stands, there appear to be too many stumbling blocks in the way of an Old Trafford exit and unless one of Europe’s big guns take decisive action soon then he will be destined for a year without Champions League football, leaving him simply crossing his fingers that Ten Haag can turn United’s fortunes around.