What next for a disgraced Ronaldo?
Mikhail Shklover examines what has gone wrong for Cristiano Ronaldo, and after his controversial interview, what may be next for the footballing superstar.
“Manchester United are a better team without him” – a simple statement from Gary Neville that depicts the current state of affairs for one of the greatest players of all time.
Ronaldo’s return to Manchester was described as “a work of art” by Peter Drury and it was clear he was striving to enhance his legacy at Old Trafford. It was a transfer that casted a shadow over all of the other transfers of the summer of 2021 and one that many United fans had dreamed about for years. The return of a legend.
While his first season was marked by spectacular performances, delightful goals and a huge commercial and financial benefit for his club, it is now clear that Ronaldo managed to hide the problems within the club. The second season differed with a total of three goals and only one in the Premier League. These were not the figures that he, or United fans were used to.
A missed pre-season and direct transfer rumours with Napoli, Sporting Lisbon and other clubs during the summer of 2022 drew attention to a potential departure for Ronaldo but he eventually ended up staying. Naturally, at the age of 37, his performances had fallen slightly, but his sense of self did not. On the one hand, it deserves respect that Ronaldo still plays in the most competitive league on the planet. However, on the other hand, his lack of game time may be due to his current capabilities. This season in the Premier League he has scored only one goal in 340 minutes on the pitch. In addition, the forward is less useful off the ball than the likes of Rashford or Martial, often refusing to press with the team’s new style. Is it time for Ronaldo to leave? Perhaps it may well be.
This season in the Premier League he has scored only one goal in 340 minutes on the pitch
Ronaldo’s explosions of frustration are becoming more consistent, although understandable. The incident in the conclusion of the game against Tottenham Hotspur that saw Ronaldo ruled out of Manchester United’s squad for the next game was as a climax of the ongoing tension building up in the club-player relationship. Ronaldo’s refusal to come on as a substitute was by no means an unprofessional decision but rather a rash reaction and a spontaneous burst of disappointment at the fact he had not featured previously.
Despite constantly stating the importance of Ronaldo to the squad, Eric Ten Hag made it clear that Ronaldo is not a starter and will have to get back to his best condition in order to receive regular game time. The ball was in his court – stay or leave.
However, the ultimate game-changer seems to have been Ronaldo’s bombshell interview with Piers Morgan. It also seems that this may have ended his time at the club, with United even considering terminating his contract. He criticised the coaching staff, former and current managers, the attitude of the players in the squad and even those powers above that run the club. So what is next for him?
A move back to Sporting doesn’t seem possible as it was made clear that the club has no interest in the transfer. A return to Juventus? Their squad is arguably in an even worse situation. A move to Napoli? It seems unlikely. Real Madrid? They are progressing through their games and cruising to titles with no need of reinforcements. A move further overseas, to the MLS or to Qatar? Should not be ruled out but Ronaldo’s rejection of a ludicrous offer earlier this year clearly highlighted his opinion on that.
On the contrary to all the discussion above, you should never write off Ronaldo. While trying to predict the controversial mid-season World Cup (which may end his exceptional international career), it would not be a total shock to see him grab the tournament’s golden boot and bring his country into at least the semi-final.
0The man possesses character and still has the sheer determination to deliver for his club and country, but is Manchester United the club where he can continue to do so? It seems almost certainly not.