It’s happening again. Cristiano Ronaldo wants out, thus throwing the club’s summer transfer plan into utter disarray. For Juventus 2021, read Manchester United 2022.
This time last year, Ronaldo was castigating the media for reporting – correctly – that he was determined to leave Turin.
And yet, just four days before the close of the transfer window, he joined United.
Then-Juve captain Giorgio Chiellini blamed the club’s slow start to the season on the chaos caused by Cristiano’s eleventh-hour exit.
“It would have been better for us if he had left earlier,” the centre-half told DAZN last September.
“We paid something for it, a little bit of a shock, we paid something for it in terms of points. If he had left earlier, we would have had time to prepare better.”
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United must now fear the same ‘Ronaldo effect’. Their pre-season preparations are going well, at least, though nobody is yet sure if that’s because of Ronaldo’s unavailability, or in spite of it.
Not even new boss Erik ten Hag. On the one hand, the Dutchman has insisted that Ronaldo is capable of playing the high-pressing game he wants to implement at Old Trafford. And yet, on the other, he has argued that a coach must adapt to his players.
What we do know for certain, though, is that Ronaldo has made an untimely mess at United.
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According to GOAL, Ten Hag did not expect to have to go looking for a new forward this summer; he thought the search could be delayed until January at the earliest.
Ronaldo’s transfer request has changed everything, though, generating nothing but further unrest and uncertainty.
Seeing Erling Haaland join Manchester City was bad enough for United but then they were beaten to the signing of Darwin Nunez by Liverpool, meaning there is a serious dearth of attacking options on the market right now.
However, there’s no guarantee that Ronaldo will get the move he wants.
Indeed, the big difference between United’s current predicament, and the situation Juve found themselves in last season, is that there is no obvious buyer for the 37-year-old.
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Ronaldo may be renowned for his sense of timing but he and his agent, Jorge Mendes, appear to have got this call badly wrong.
The Portuguese is obviously used to getting what he wants – and what he wants is to continue playing for a Champions League contender.
United won’t even be in the competition next season and as soon as it became clear that a top-four finish was beyond them, Mendes really needed to have a new club lined up for his No.1 client.
Because, right now, less than a fortnight before the start of the season, not one member of Europe’s elite is presently in a position to offer Ronaldo a way out of Old Trafford.
As GOAL explains below, the top nine sides in next season’s Champions League can’t afford the five-time Ballon d’Or winner or, even more damningly, just don’t want him…
It has been reported in recent days that Ronaldo could join Atletico Madrid, which is surprising for a number of reasons.
Firstly, Ronaldo used to play for the Rojiblancos’ great rivals Real and has plenty of previous with the club’s fans, having most famously mocked them over his superior tally of European Cup wins with a five-fingered salute after a Juve loss at the Wanda Metropolitano a few years back.
Secondly, he would appear wholly unsuited to playing under Diego Simeone, who demands that his team defends from the front.
Thirdly, and far more importantly, Ronaldo’s wage demands would represent a significant obstacle to any hopes Atletico may have of signing Real’s all-time leading goalscorer.
And yet, in spite of all these hurdles, this is arguably the most feasible transfer – which tells you much about Ronaldo’s lack of options right now.