The second love story between Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United could well come to an end. After a disappointing season without qualifying for the Champions League, the Portuguese already wants to leave, but the club does not see it that way.
Ronaldo returned as a hero last summer to ManU to pursue an extraordinary career, where he had already played between 2003 and 2009, the time to become one of the best players in the world. On September 11, 2021, he officially marked his return with a resounding double against Newcastle in the Championship, in front of obviously conquered fans.
Less than a year later, the Portuguese already wants a divorce.
From the arrival at the end of April of Erik Ten Hag, the new coach of the Red Devils, it seemed written that CR7 would hardly have the good role in the system advocated by the former coach of Ajax. High pressure, a keen sense of the collective, so many precepts that do not stick to Ronaldo, who has never shone with his defensive involvement and has always loved the spotlight.
But Manchester United does not want to part with its top scorer, author of 24 goals last season. It was Ronaldo, still under contract for a year, who asked to leave. His last foot call to club management, which was meant to be subliminal, actually turned out to be highly toxic.
On Sunday, the Portuguese left Old Trafford, with other players, ten minutes before the end of the friendly match played by his team against the Spanish club Rayo Vallecano. Erik Ten Hag saw red. “I told them it was unacceptable, that we are a team and that we have to stay until the end,” he said after the match.
However, the separation seems perilous, first for Cristiano Ronaldo who, at 37, attracts less and less the big European clubs. Few have enough to afford it. Even fewer need it.
All the other formations of the English “Big Six” have recruited at least one striker, or already had their favorite striker. Same for other top names like PSG, Barça or Bayern.
CR7’s priority is to find a high-standing club, both capable of buying out his last year of contract, offering him a substantial salary – he currently earns 500,000 pounds per week (around 600,000 euros) – and above all a Champions League season. Some avenues were explored by his agent Jorge Mendes, without success.
At the same time, Erik Ten Hag has shown his desire to keep Ronaldo but demands that he return to his best physical level, after being injured several times last season. At the same time, the Dutch technician cannot sweep away the very average attacking performance of the other Red Devils since the Portuguese arrived.
The latter was the only one to exceed ten goals in the Championship with 18 goals, almost a third of ManU’s total (57). A figure at its lowest since the 2016/17 season.
The transfer market is not full, or no longer, of international-class scorers and presents a certain immobility mid-mercato. Keeping Ronaldo or ensuring a smooth separation therefore appears to be a necessity for Manchester United.
For his part, Cristiano Ronaldo will not make concessions on the competitiveness of his possible next club, nor on the protection of his family life. The Funchal native has just turned down a £210million offer from Saudi Arabia, which wouldn’t have been a wise sporting choice less than four months away from his biggest goal: the World Cup with his squad.
He also had to give up internships abroad with ManU in July due to family problems, a few months after the death of his newborn.
Despite his competitive spirit and personal struggles, Cristiano Ronaldo was the most insulted player on Twitter between the start of last season and January with 12,520 abusive tweets, according to a report by UK media regulator (Ofcom) and from the Alan Turing Institute. The former little Mancunian prodigy is no longer unanimous.
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