Cristiano Ronaldo’s time at Manchester United is surely up.
Following an explosive interview with Piers Morgan in which the superstar forward said he feels “betrayed” by senior figures at Old Trafford and does not respect manager Erik ten Hag, Ronaldo’s departure seems certain.
Having tried and failed to join a new club in the past transfer window, Ronaldo may be granted his wish in January once the World Cup is done and dusted.
If that is the case, there are only a few likely destinations for the Portugal international, who is reportedly eager to continue his career at the highest level despite turning 38 in February.
A return to Serie A has been touted for Ronaldo, with Napoli being named as potential suitors earlier this year after losing attacking spearheads Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens. Whether the that remains the case, with Luciano Spalletti’s side eight points clear at the Serie A summit, remains to be seen.
But in Ronaldo’s three years in Italy with Juventus, no player scored more Serie A goals than his tally of 81 and, despite spending the past year and a half with United, only Ciro Immobile (117) has scored more Serie A goals since 2018.
Napoli would certainly match Ronaldo’s aspirations, with Champions League football post-Christmas to look forward to and a first Scudetto since the glory days of Diego Maradona a realistic target. However, the club’s finances and the forward’s wage demands may prove to be restrictive.
Finances will certainly not be a problem for Chelsea, who are at somewhat of a crossroads following Todd Boehly’s takeover earlier this year. The American billionaire is said to have previously met with Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes, but no transfer went through in August.
Thomas Tuchel has since been replaced by Graham Potter in the Stamford Bridge dugout, though, and while the Englishman may not be on board with the idea of signing another ageing attacker, Boehly will very much have the final say.
Whether Ronaldo would accept a move to a Premier League rival, even if his reputation at Old Trafford has plummeted in recent months, is the biggest question regarding any hopes the Blues may have in signing the Portuguese. There is also then the small matter of United agreeing to offload to a domestic rival midway through the campaign, with both sides battling for a top-four finish.
With a United homecoming already under his belt, could Sporting secure a sensational return of their own and bring Ronaldo back to where it all began? It’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility – especially as he enters the final six months of his United contract.
Ronaldo had just a single season in the senior squad with Sporting before he moved to United, so he may feel he has unfinished business – and it is a side that can definitely compete, having ended a 20-year barren spell without a league title in the 2020-21 season.
That said, Sporting have endured a difficult campaign this time around as they sit fourth in the Primeira Liga and have exited the Champions League. As head coach Ruben Amorim recently stated, however, there is no harm in dreaming of seeing CR7 in the famous green and white strip once again.
Another possible return destination… could Ronaldo wind back up in the Spanish capital?
The Champions League winners are hardly in need of another superstar forward, given they already have the world’s best player in Karim Benzema, but bringing Ronaldo back to the club where he scored 450 goals would surely appeal to president Florentino Perez, who is never shy in his attempts to make statement signings.
Madrid missed out on Kylian Mbappe earlier this year, much to their frustration, and having Ronaldo in their side would undoubtedly provide some depth up top until the PSG forward is further into the new, three-year contract he signed with the French club in May.
Champions League football has been documented as the reason for Ronaldo’s strong desire to leave United but, if such offers are not forthcoming, could a move to MLS be on the cards?
Financial rules and designated player spots would make a switch complicated, with there only being a handful of teams likely to be able to make a move possible – likely to be those in Los Angeles, Miami and New York.
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With the 2026 World Cup taking place in North America, bringing Ronaldo to MLS would raise the profile of the league further – and would undoubtedly be the biggest acquisition for the league since David Beckham’s move to LA Galaxy in 2007.
That move marked the start of a new era of soccer in the US and has evolved considerably since, though Ronaldo’s arrival would send things to a completely new level.