The shock striker signing manager Louis van Gaal so glibly referred to earlier this week could very well rekindle Manchester United’s relationship with one of the globe’s greatest stars. Daily Mirror reports Van Gaal and the Red Devils are trying to lure world-class striker Cristiano Ronaldo back to Old Trafford, six years after he was sent to Real Madrid for £80 million.
The 30-year-old Portuguese enjoyed maybe his best individual season at the Bernabeu, scoring 61 goals across all competitions, but the exits of some of his friends and teammates in the last year and Madrid’s collapse in the Spanish Primera and Champions League have put Ronaldo’s status in doubt.
Furthermore, United isn’t the only reported club to reach out to Madrid about Ronaldo’s availability. Ligue 1’s Paris Saint-Germain were hoping to land Ronaldo with a record deal earlier this summer, but Madrid turned back those overtures. But the report's existence only extends the idea that Ronaldo might be contemplating a move from Spain.
Manchester Evening News also reported that Van Gaal and United are tinkering with a new club-record transfer bid to acquire Ronaldo, who would cap a very active transfer session that included the signings of Memphis Depay, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Morgan Schneiderlin.
Both reports pointed out that two years ago United tried to capitalize on Ronaldo’s perceived discontent with Madrid, both for their lack of support when it came time to campaign for trophies like the Ballon d’Or and foot-dragging when he desired a new contract.
However, Madrid kept Ronaldo happy with a new deal that is supposed to run until 2018, and he’s won the last two Ballon d’Or trophies. For all Real Madrid's struggles in 2014-2015, they remain one of the elite clubs in the world, and have the funds to bolster their roster at any moment to compete for silverware.
Nevertheless, United do present a unique challenge for Ronaldo and the move could tempt him. A return to Old Trafford would likely mean increased endorsement opportunities, as well as the chance to bolster his legacy by returning the club to Champions League and Premier League glory after setbacks since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement.
It could also complete the wide circle of Ronaldo’s career, a sort of "home coming" to the club that first made him a superstar when he transferred from Sporting CP in 2003. Ronaldo has not been shy about expressing affection for United, a club that made him a household name in Europe.
The speculation, however, is not new. In 2013, Nike was in talks with Manchester United about facilitating a deal to bring him back to Manchester. Former United center back Rio Ferdinand also tried to talk Ronaldo into returning.
"It was true that Rio spoke to me a lot. I did think about United," Ronaldo said in Jan. 2014. "They are still in my heart. It's a club where I played for six years and I love that club. I have a lot of friends there and I wish them the best."