Cristiano Ronaldo’s second coming at Manchester United is over, with it confirmed that the Portuguese superstar has severed ties with the Red Devils less than 18 months after he made an emotional return to a spiritual home.
They do say ‘never go back’, and an all-time great with five Ballons d’Or to his name should have heeded that advice when mulling over his options in the summer of 2021. A 24-goal haul during his first season back in England only served to paper over cracks, with it clear for some time that something was not right.
OFFICIAL: Manchester United confirm that Cristiano Ronaldo will leave the club by mutual consent, with immediate effect pic.twitter.com/B3QfLnoqkc
— B/R Football (@brfootball) November 22, 2022
Frustration came to the boil in 2022, as a push for the exits was made during another summer transfer window, and ultimately spilled over in an explosive interview that burned any remaining bridges.
It became abundantly clear that Ronaldo’s heart was no longer in Manchester as attention turned to international matters. His exploits in Qatar have placed his nation among the favourites in the World Cup odds 2022, with Portugal priced at 10/1 to chase down a global crown.
During the early stages of that tournament, United announced that a lucrative contract at Old Trafford had been torn up. Ronaldo then came out and suggested that the Red Devils still hold some place in his heart: “I love Manchester United and I love the fans, that will never ever change. However, it feels like the right time for me to seek a new challenge. I wish the team every success for the remainder of the season and for the future.”
The obvious question at that point was, where will Ronaldo end up next? Various landing spots had already been speculated on before the worst-kept secret in football was revealed. Destinations from Saudi Arabia to the United States have been mooted, while there is still a chance that a Premier League suitor could emerge.
If a modern-day great were to remain in English football, then he could be finding himself lining up against United in the not-too-distant future. Even a return to his roots at Sporting could see paths crossed with familiar faces, with both sides still in the hunt for Europa League glory in 2022-23.
Facing the Red Devils would be nothing new for Ronaldo, as he has turned out against them on five previous occasions in competitive fixtures – while a famous friendly appearance for Sporting back in 2003 allowed him to catch the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson and earn a career-defining move to the Theatre of Dreams.
Where will Cristiano Ronaldo go next? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/mg7nPktnfo
— GOAL (@goal) November 22, 2022
Ronaldo first crossed swords with United as an established superstar while with Real Madrid in 2013, scoring in both legs of a Champions League last-16 encounter. He also savoured UEFA Super Cup success against the Red Devils while in Spain and netted against them again in European competition when at Juventus in 2018.
Celebrations with the Blancos and Bianconeri were understandably muted, with promises having been made not to go full ‘SIUUU’ mode when facing a side that had done so much for him, but it remains to be seen whether he would be so respectful if another meeting with United were to be taken in.
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