A new documentary will soon be released detailing Cristiano Ronaldo’s rise to becoming one of the world’s most recognizable sports stars. But speculation over what lies ahead for the three-time Ballon d’Or winner remains the biggest headline grabber.
Ronaldo turns 31 in February, a few months before he is set to enter the crucial negotiation period in a player’s contract, when just two years will remain on his deal at Real Madrid. The next contract he signs is likely to be the last while he is still at the height of his powers. When signing his current deal two years ago, the Portuguese forward sad he envisaged himself remaining at Real Madrid until his retirement. Yet his latest comments contain the revelation that he could imagine leaving the Spanish giants.
“Why not? At the moment I’m a Real Madrid player at the moment, but you can never know,” he told German magazine Kicker. “You have to do what makes you happy. Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow. All I can say is that I will always give my best for my club and my country.”
Yet should Ronaldo decide to leave the Santiago Bernabeu, his options will be limited. Few clubs would be capable of financing what is sure to be a huge transfer fee, not to mention a massive salary. Still, one club currently stands apart in the list of suitors.
It was strongly reported over the summer that French champions PSG were ready to finance a move for Ronaldo either immediately, or more likely at the end of this season. Their financial power under the ownership of the Qatari Investment Authority is not in doubt, while the restrictions they faced under UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules have been relaxed. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic, one of the world’s highest-paid players, set to leave at the end of his contract next summer, the timing would appear to be perfect for PSG to commit behind a new, even bigger star.
The big question will be whether Ronaldo considers it a tempting opportunity. France’s Ligue Un lacks the global reputation and spotlight of La Liga or the Premier League and the week-to-week competition he would face would be diminished. Yet there is likely be the tantalizing prospect of trying to deliver the side from the French capital a first ever Champions League title.
It has been well established in recent years that Manchester United have been desperate to bring back a player they sold to Real Madrid for a then-record transfer fee of £80 million in 2009. Only in recent days, former teammate Patrice Evra claimed that he had been told by then manager Sir Alex Ferguson that Ronaldo was all-but confirmed to return shortly before the Scot’s sudden retirement in 2013.
But that raises the question about just how much connection Ronaldo still has to Manchester United without the manager who became a father figure to him. The club is now very different from the one he left, and are still attempting to get back to the top in the Premier League as well as in Europe. Current manager Louis van Gaal is not an ideal match for Ronaldo, given the Dutch coach’s disdain for indulging individual talents. Still, United have shown a new willingness to go after the world’s leading stars for large sums of money in recent months and would surely express an interest should Ronaldo become available.
Under the charge of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, Chelsea are another club that could afford Ronaldo. However, in recent years the Premier League outfit have been far more prudent in their transfer dealings, showing a keen desire to balance the books. A huge degree of uncertainty also currently surrounds Chelsea, with the team suffering their worst ever start to a Premier League season and the future of manager Jose Mourinho currently the subject of huge speculation. Those issues could both prevent Chelsea from positioning themselves in the battle for Ronaldo’s services as well as making them a less attractive proposition for the player.
Ronaldo has also hinted in the past that he would find it difficult to play for another Premier League club because of his connection to Manchester United. If he finds his options are limited, those views may yet change. And the prospect of living in London rather than Manchester may appeal, too, to a man who enjoys being the big fish in the big pond.
Bayern Munich have sizable resources and could offer Ronaldo the sort of lofty stage he would desire, yet they have no history of spending astronomical sums on global superstars. It would a huge departure to do so, especially for a player beyond the age of 30. In England, Manchester City could certainly afford Ronaldo and may well be tempted by getting a player of his global reach. Yet if a move to Chelsea is problematic, joining Manchester United’s closest rivals would be even more so for the Old Trafford legend.
Italy was once the destination for the game’s biggest players, but it is now some time since that was the case. Serie A clubs can no longer pay the transfer fees or salaries to attract the sport’s best, although there have been some signs of healthier economic times emerging. Perhaps the only candidate from Italy would be AC Milan, who recently attracted new investment. Yet on the pitch the club remains in transition, and the prospect of securing Ronaldo any time soon is farfetched.