It appears to be a matter of time before Cristiano Ronaldo is no longer a Juventus player, but determining the identity of his next destination just got a lot more interesting.
A day after multiple reports stated that Ronaldo had voiced his desire to be sold and is preparing to exit the club, Juventus manager Max Allegri confirmed that the end is near. In his prematch press conference on Friday, Allegri said clearly that Ronaldo has expressed his wish to leave. He is not available for selection on Saturday vs. Empoli and is no longer training with the club. It all comes just a week after Ronaldo called transfer speculation regarding his future disrespectful and “just talk” in a post on Instagram. More than that, Allegri and Juventus vice president Pavel Nedved issued clear denials of a pending exit for the record-setting goalscorer, even after he was benched for the first game of the season (he came on as a substitute and appeared to score the match-winning goal in stoppage time, only to have it overturned by VAR). Nevertheless, with Ronaldo into the final season of his four-year contract with Juve, he is on the verge of changing clubs again.
It’s one thing to want to leave, though, and it’s another to have a willing suitor. Manchester City had emerged as the most likely destination up until Friday, which came only after the club was rebuffed in its attempts to sign Harry Kane from Tottenham. Ronaldo would have come at a bargain, compared with what it would have cost City to pry Kane from Spurs, with reports suggesting that Juventus is seeking a fee in the €30 million ($35 million) range for a player it bought from Real Madrid for €100 million in ’18. Then again, Kane is 28 and is under contract for three more seasons, while Ronaldo is 36 and out of contract in June. There were surely questions over the tactical fit, and after a day of all signs pointing to a move to the blue side of Manchester, it appears that a sensational return to the red side is now the more likely option. Multiple reports are now stating that City is out of the race entirely, leaving Man United as the shocking leader for his signature.
United, where Ronaldo played from 2003-2009, entered the chat on Friday, after comments made by manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer at his prematch press conference suggested that a remarkable return is suddenly possible.
“He is a legend of this club, the greatest player of all time if you ask me. I was fortunate enough to play with him. I coached him when I got my job," Solskjaer, whose club has already bought Jadon Sancho and Raphaël Varane this summer, said. “He is such a tremendous human being as well. Let's see what happens with Cristiano. Everyone who has played with him has a soft spot for him.
“We've always had a good communication. Bruno (Fernandes) has been talking to him. He knows what we feel about him. If he was ever going to move away from Juventus, he knows we're here.”
Ronaldo, if he returns to United, will be looked upon to be the consistent scoring striker that he's proved to be in the latter stages of his career. He has scored plenty of goals at Juventus, 101 in total (81 in Serie A, 14 in Champions League, six in domestic cups), but the club failed to get beyond the Champions League quarterfinals since he joined, and the sole motivation behind bringing him in to a team that was already dominant domestically was to win the European championship.
That never happened, and now Manchester United is evidently hoping he is the final piece to its puzzle to restore both domestic and continental glory at Old Trafford—even if he did not appear to be in the club’s plans this summer until just now. United was drawn into a Champions League group on Thursday with Villarreal, Atalanta and Young Boys and was already considered a clear favorite to go through, regardless of whether Ronaldo joins the club or not. Ronaldo won one of his five Champions League titles with Manchester United in 2008.
Nothing is done yet, though. The deadline for Ronaldo to secure his move is Tuesday, Aug. 31.
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