The world’s most expensive player, Ronaldo, has made his return to Manchester United. This is a shock to the soccer world and it is likely that this will lead to some interesting moves in the transfer market.
The Ronaldo’s return to Man United has shocked the soccer world. Here’s why is a blog post about how Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United has surprised many people in the soccer world.
As a result, he’s returned. Perhaps even more intriguing than Cristiano Ronaldo’s comeback to Manchester United is how it occurred. Many of us mused about how it might make sense back in May.
Juventus weren’t exactly wooing him, but with losses expected to exceed €300 million over the next two years, they’d made it clear that if he wanted to leave and they got a fee equal to his residual amortised value (€28 million… the game now belongs to the accountants as much as anyone), they wouldn’t stop him. He only had a year remaining on his contract, and extending it would be tough given the club’s desire to rebuild via youth.
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Meanwhile, Manchester United had the means to buy him – and pay his high salary – and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer loved the notion of a seasoned goal scorer who could give oomph to the attack while also serving as a role model for younger players. So much so that Edinson Cavani had been signed to a one-year contract that was set to expire.
Man United was a natural destination for Ronaldo if he chose to leave Juventus, and Cavani’s exit would help offset some of his salary (at least a third).
Except that never happened. On May 10, United invoked their option to extend Cavani’s contract for another year, thus ruling out a move for Ronaldo in the near future… or so we thought. We learned Ronaldo wanted to transfer out of the blue.
There had been indications for a while, but they didn’t start coming in until less than two weeks ago. Real Madrid wanted to get Ronaldo back, according to Edu Aguirre, a journalist who is close to him (to the point that his Instagram account includes photos of them on vacation together). This led their manager, Carlo Ancelotti, to issue a rare public denial through Twitter, as well as a lengthy message from Ronaldo himself, in which he discussed how focused he was and how he couldn’t “let others to keep playing about with [his] name.” (When it came to names, he only referenced his former club, Juventus, a total of zero times.)
Then, earlier this week, Real Madrid launched a €160 million offer for Kylian Mbappe of Paris Saint-Germain, and rumors started to circulate linking Ronaldo to a transfer to Manchester City or, possibly, PSG if Mbappe moved. (At PSG, he would have paired up with Lionel Messi, the equivalent of a Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal doubles combination or Magic Johnson teaming up with Larry Bird in basketball.)
The first time Ronaldo played for Manchester United, he won three Premier League championships and one Champions League, among other things. What is he going to do this time? Getty Images/Laurence Griffiths
By Thursday morning, things had taken a turn for the worst. Ronaldo’s agent, Jorge Mendes, traveled to Turin to inform Juventus of Ronaldo’s desire to depart, claiming that a deal with Manchester City was nearing completion. Juventus accepted this and spun the story that the reconstruction would start a year sooner than expected. They reminded Mendes that they needed a €28 million offer from City, and he said they should have one in the next 24 hours. Mendes then boarded a Cessna plane and traveled to Paris for the day.
We don’t know whether he met with PSG after he arrived to see if that was a possibility should Mbappe be allowed to go. They gently said that Ronaldo was not in their plans, but they also stated that Mbappe was not available and that they had no intentions to speak with Real Madrid, despite the fact that they were in talks with the Spanish club at the time.
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When facts change, plans shift, and Mendes, who has spent two decades as one of the world’s best agents, knows this better than most. He went to Paris to cover his bases, and when he reached out to Manchester United on Thursday, he was already covering another base. This was despite the fact that he was still in contact with Manchester City and waiting for them to submit an official offer to Juventus.
The atmosphere had changed by Friday noon in Europe. Pep Guardiola, speaking during a press conference before of Man City’s match against Arsenal, said: “Cristiano Ronaldo, not Manchester City or myself, will pick where he wants to play… It seems to be a long way away right now.” It was as though she was saying “take it or leave it.” Perhaps the stumbling block was the price Juventus demanded: according to sources, City would not offer more than €15 million. Perhaps it was because of Ronaldo’s contract: at Juventus, he made €31 million after taxes, which translates to £48.36 million gross ($66.5 million), or more than £900,000 each week, almost twice as much as anybody else in the Premier League.
Solskjaer opened the door in his own prematch media responsibilities minutes later and a few miles away: “Cristiano Ronaldo was never going to leave Juventus, in my opinion. He knows we are here if he ever wants to leave Juventus… Let’s wait and watch what Cristiano does.”
When speaking to youngsters in April 2019, Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hinted that Cristiano Ronaldo will return.
When a manager talks thus freely, particularly one as reserved as Solskjaer, you know something big is about to happen. City were briefing the media minutes after that they were out of the Ronaldo sweepstakes, and United’s official account tweeted the same thing a few hours later.
There will be time to analyze and evaluate if this is the correct move for Cristiano and United, but for now, the mechanics of how it came to be leave you speechless.
The time is the first and main consideration. Why did Cristiano take so long to act? It’s not like anything occurred in the last week that made Ronaldo suddenly want to leave Juventus. In mid-August, the club’s financial position did not abruptly worsen. After two years, Ronaldo didn’t run into Max Allegri and say, “Nah, I don’t really want to play for this man.” It’s not like Juve promised him a star-studded supporting group and he wanted to go because of it: he knew well well that, apart from Manuel Locatelli, there would be no major additions.
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Indeed, it seems that this had as much to do with other options as it did with a wish to go.
Real Madrid, PSG, Man City, and Man United were the only four realistic options in terms of who could afford him. PSG wants to retain Mbappe, and Madrid wants to keep him. Mendes understood that, although Mbappe is a fantastic player, he can’t play for two clubs at the same time, and that whomever didn’t get Mbappe could be interested in Ronaldo. Man City, who had lost out on Harry Kane, were also a possibility.
Manchester United? They’d been there all along, and the fact that they hadn’t moved for him sooner, when it would have made more sense from a sports standpoint, didn’t really matter. Ego is a part of football, and it’s possible that being able to pip a City target had a role. And that’s the other surprising aspect of this story: you don’t expect Ronaldo to be sold about; you don’t expect teams to woo and seduce him, and you don’t expect bidding wars for his attention. Mendes, on the other hand, went door to door.
This is one of the best players in the game’s history. He’s 36 years old, yet he scored more league goals last season (29) than all but two players in Europe’s Big Five leagues (Robert Lewandowski, 41 for Bayern Munich, and Lionel Messi, 30 for Barcelona). And it was just six weeks ago that he won the Golden Boot in the European Championship, not six years ago. His fitness and professionalism have been praised by everyone he has ever worked with, even those who don’t like him.
Nonetheless, here we are. With his agent working around the clock, he ends up relocating almost as an afterthought in the last week of the transfer window.
It’s not meant to be a dig at Ronaldo. It’s an indication that reality (of the post-COVID kind) is biting many clubs. That agents who used to be able to move clubs and players like toy troops on a map are no longer able to do it as readily.
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Paolo Condo, one of my colleagues, said that the era of “player power” and superstars always getting their way may be gone, or at the very least on pause. Messi wanted to remain at Barcelona (and it was said that they wanted to retain him), but he was denied. Kane wanted to transfer from Tottenham to Manchester City, but he was denied. Gianluigi Donnarumma sought a big rise from Milan or a transfer to Juventus, but he didn’t get his way, and now he backs up Keylor Navas at PSG, earning less than what Milan offered.
Then there’s Ronaldo. Yes, he won the job, but only at the very end of the summer, and only after a tremendous effort on his agent’s part.
Perhaps it’s a stretch to say we’ve moved on from the age of the all-powerful solo megastar. Man City, on the other hand, has a plethora of talented players but no dominant superstar (unless you include Guardiola), and they came close to winning the quadruple last season. You might make a similar case for Chelsea, who won the Champions League with a shifting front line, or Liverpool, where finding a single standout is difficult. Of all, Atletico Madrid won LaLiga without an A-lister, and if Antonio Conte were here, he’d tell you that Inter won Serie A because of the collective strength of the team (and his brilliant coaching, of course).
So, how about PSG? No, they didn’t win the league despite having two A-list megastars in Neymar and Mbappe. Whatever the situation may be, and regardless of the work required, Ronaldo can finally add to Manchester United’s history after 12 years.
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