Cristiano Ronaldo could be forced into an embarrassing U-turn at Manchester United.
The market is narrowing for Cristiano Ronaldo after Bayern Munich became the latest big name team to rule out a move for the Portuguese legend as the wantaway star continues to agitate for a move away from Old Trafford.
For the second time in his career, Ronaldo wants out of the club who established his credentials on the world stage. This time, though, there doesn’t seem to be a Real Madrid waiting in the wings to harness the talents of one of the most prodigiously talented footballers of his generation.
Ronaldo’s homecoming to Manchester United a little under a year ago was supposed to represent the final piece of the puzzle at a club which has struggled to step out of the considerable shadow of their former boss Alex Ferguson.
His 24 goals in all competitions last season showed that even nearing his 38th birthday, Ronaldo’s goalscoring instincts remains unencumbered by the ravages of age.
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But for all his goals, Ronaldo’s efforts did little more than paper over the cracks of the turgid efforts of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and, later, Ralf Rangnick: two men who seemed entirely ill-equipped for a job of that magnitude.
Despite initially giving his blessing to the new Erik ten Hag regime at Manchester United, Ronaldo switched gears just weeks later when he informed the club that he wanted to break up with them.
It was the second time in his career that he has done this. The first time around he accused the club of treating him like a ‘slave’. There was no such grandstanding this time; more an accusation that United are no longer the type of club capable of fulfilling his ambitions for silverware.
But this has led to an unexpected dilemma: clubs capable of quenching Ronaldo’s thirst for success don’t want any part of him.
First Chelsea ruled out a move for Ronaldo, as the club’s new American owner Todd Boehly decided against what would have been a marketing bonanza for his new empire at Stamford Bridge.
Ronaldo wearing blue would have sold a lot of shirts in the United States – a market the club have decided to aggressively target under their new ownership after it was decided that Roman Abramovich hadn’t come close to making the most of commercial ties there.
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel preferred Raheem Sterling to Ronaldo, and that’s where Boehly’s cash went.
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Bayern Munich were another potential landing spot, but they have repeatedly denied having an interest in Ronaldo even despite losing star marksman Robert Lewandowski to Barcelona.
Bayern executive Oliver Kahn said of Ronaldo: “As much as I appreciate Cristiano Ronaldo as one of the greatest, a transfer would not fit into our philosophy.”
Still, the media pushed the Munich narrative and this led to a strange situation where the German champions again reiterated their stance, this time from the club’s sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic.
“I have a lot of respect for Cristiano Ronaldo, his successes and his career,” he said.
“But once again: That was and is not a topic for us.”
Then there came the outlandish links, like one Saudi Arabian team offering Ronaldo a two-year, £250 million deal – which was reportedly turned down.
Where else? Manchester City aren’t an option, given that they have recruited Erling Haaland – arguably a better goalscorer than Ronaldo and SEVENTEEN years younger.
A transfer to Liverpool would prompt riots in Manchester. Arsenal wouldn’t want his wages. Real Madrid? Not interested. Juventus? Been there, done that.
Even Paris Saint-Germain, the French club for whom money is not an option, have so far resisted the urge of pairing Ronaldo with Lionel Messi in their attack.
Ronaldo’s desire for Champions League football has left him with limited options. He wants elite football, but does elite football want him? Sporting directors across Europe are sure to have seen Manchester United’s implosion after they tried and largely failed to integrate Ronaldo into their team.
Sure, goals will come – but at what cost?
The longer this rancor continues, the more it seems that Ronaldo may have overplayed his hand at United. A man of his considerable ego likely wouldn’t have con sidered that there wouldn’t be a market for a player of his reputation, especially given that he clearly doesn’t see himself as a Europa League player.
The longer this rancor continues, the more likely it will be that Ronaldo is forced into an embarrassing climbdown from his position, and a return to United where, let’s not forget, he remains contracted for a further season.
There is a not impossible scenario where Ronaldo must content himself with playing outside of Europe’s top club competition at a club where he doesn’t want to be, and for a manager who – despite public proclamations to the opposite – doesn’t want him.
How did it come to this?