Why Cristiano Ronaldo would leave Real Madrid and its potential domino effect

Why would Cristiano Ronaldo want to leave Real Madrid now? The logic doesn't quite add up, but there would be a massive domino effect around the soccer world should he actually go.
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Cristiano Ronaldo loves himself the spotlight. Well, sir, you have yourself a spotlight.

On the eve of the Confederations Cup, where Ronaldo will try to win yet another trophy in this silverware-laden calendar year, and days after being accused in a $16.5 million tax fraud case, the bombshell dropped that the Portugal superstar apparently wants to leave Real Madrid this summer. While it's possible that it's true–and Marca, a plugged-in Real Madrid outlet, would be the one to know–the logic of it all is baffling, really.

Amid the background of his tax fraud case, he is reportedly not pleased with how he's being portrayed in Spain, and he is also reportedly not thrilled with the club's level of support for him, even though it released a statement proclaiming Ronaldo's innocence. 

"Real Madrid has full confidence in our player Cristiano Ronaldo, who we understand has acted in accordance with the legality regarding the fulfillment of his fiscal obligations," its statement read. "Real Madrid is absolutely convinced that our player, Cristiano Ronaldo, will prove his total innocence."

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While it's true Ronaldo has nothing more to win at Real Madrid, the same could have been said for the last three years–and for a player who loves trophies and Ballon d'Ors (and seeing his reflection in them, surely), there's no better place to win more than at the Bernabeu. Ronaldo graciously accepted manager Zinedine Zidane's rotation plan, crediting it for his resurgence at the end of the season, which catapulted Real to its most recent triumphs. He even signed an extension through 2021 with the club this past November, and a year ago he claimed he'd retire at the club when he hit his 40s.

"I'm going to retire at Real Madrid at more than 40 years old," Ronaldo said at the time. "I am very happy here and working hard to achieve this. The white jersey suits me perfectly."

Or does it?

Anyhow, for Real Madrid, it's not like it's just going to let Ronaldo walk, and the transfer fee he would command, even at 32, would be astronomical. His release clause is, according to what agent Jorge Mendes said two years ago, $1.51 billion. Billion. With a B. 

So needless to say, something doesn't quite add up. But let's indulge the Spanish and Portuguese reports making the rounds for a bit and see things play out.

Suppose Ronaldo leaves Real Madrid, and he heads to two of the only clubs on the planet who could afford him, Manchester United or PSG (sorry, MLS, it's just not your time). 

It was quite telling that former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson was among the first to greet Ronaldo in the players' tunnel after Real Madrid captured its latest Champions League title in Cardiff. Ferguson is the man who brought Ronaldo from Sporting CP into the spotlight, the link between the two has been ever-strong, and Ronaldo has never been shy about expressing thankfulness for his time at Manchester. Would a return to Old Trafford really be all that shocking? While sensational, it would have merit. (The problem is, it's probably not the best long-term play Manchester United can make for a Real Madrid forward. Why spend god-knows-what for the end of Ronaldo's prime, when a more reasonable amount can be spent on a rising star in Alvaro Morata and his entire career apex?) Playing again for countryman Jose Mourinho wouldn't shock anyone, especially given both men are represented by Mendes.

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From Real Madrid's standpoint, would selling Ronaldo at this juncture really be that unwise? Just think about what it could buy (aside from Whole Foods) with the financial windfall. You can pencil Kylian Mbappe in at the Bernabeu as the club's next cornerstone. Gianluigi Donnarumma could join him as the goalkeeper of the present and future. The club could plug any hole with any player available (or not available, really), adding to its nucleus that already boasts a who's who of world talent. The club would be just fine and fortify its Galactico reputation.

The counter question, of course, is why make such drastic changes to a team that's won three Champions League titles in four years? Real could (and might) still add Mbappe and Donnarumma without off-loading Ronaldo, it just would just take a bit more maneuvering to do so.

As for PSG, winning Ligue 1 certainly wouldn't appeal to Ronaldo, but perhaps the challenge of leading another club to the European mountaintop might. He'll be paid handsomely, live in Paris and have the chance to add to his legend. There's little downside–except for the fact that making such a major career move into unknown waters in the year leading up to the last real chance to win a World Cup is a massive gamble.

Marca's report claims that Real Madrid brass is trying to calm Ronaldo, to show him the light and keep him in the Spanish capital, and that's very possibly how this whole ordeal will play out. Maybe this is just a calculated distraction from his legal troubles (and if so, well played, because it's working). But we're two weeks before the transfer window officially opens in the Premier League, and silly season has already hit its peak.

Nobody claims the spotlight quite like Cristiano Ronaldo.