Murmurings of the Portugese’s potential Old Trafford re-arrival first emerged following an interview earlier this month in which he proclaimed a great love for the city of Manchester and his former club, even declaring; “I wish I can come back some day.”
Music to the ears of every United supporter, and far from a nostalgic fantasy, Sky Sports correspondent Guillem Balague believes a move back to Carrington is a distinct possibility for Ronaldo.
The Spanish journalist boasts serious credentials with his resident spot in Revista de la Riga’s cafe-come-shed studio set-up, especially in regards to La Liga’s backroom politic. He alleged Chelsea’s £32million deal for Diego Costa was complete way back in January; he also revealed Barcelona’s sale of Alexis Sanchez with paralleled foresight.
Optimists hope an agreement for the Portugal international can be thrashed out by the January window, realists, by next summer . Unfortunately for both schools of thought however, Balague hypothesises that Ronaldo’s Bernabeu exit will unlikely come into fruition until summer 2016.
“Cristiano Ronaldo dreams and would like to go back to Manchester United. It’s just the timing which I think people are getting wrong. Real Madrid have got no intention whatsoever of selling Cristiano Ronaldo next summer,” Balague recently informed Scott Minto and co.
“In two years’ time I would say yes, that is possibly the time when he will be 31 going on 32, for Real Madrid to say: ‘OK, if we can cash in on him, brilliant. He has done a lot for us, but that’s it, time to move on. I don’t think it’s going to happen this summer. People will have to be a little bit more patient.”
Cristiano Ronaldo – a Ballon d’Or winner, a two-time Champions League winner, one of the two leading entities in world football – only trumped in public endorsement of his quality by one Lionel Messi. Surely a talent worth waiting years, generations, even decades for.
But in this case, with the forward approaching his 30s and the rate of change eternally relentless in the Premier League, is two years too long to hang around for Ronaldo’s signature?
The opinion of the United faithful will be a resounding no. After all, the Portugal international left Old Trafford a superstar, but four years at the Bernabeu has transformed him into a footballing god. Indeed, since joining Los Blancos in 2009, he’s bagged 265 goals in 255 appearances – nobody even bothers to mention the amount of assists he’s racked up, but for the record, it’s 47 in La Liga.
Even at the age of 32, as he will be by summer 2016, the United icon will possess the physique of players ten years his junior, and there’s no questioning Ronaldo’s devotion – everything earned in his career thus far has come through hard work on the training pitch as much as it has natural-born talent.
But there is an old adage in football that you should never go back. Ronaldo may currently boast the best goals-to-games ratio in La Liga history of 1.08 per match, but that potency will eventually fade away. There’s already signs of this being the case; the Portugal international’s strike-rate is still ridiculous, but since his record-breaking 60-goal haul during the 2011/12 campaign, his numbers slumped to 55 goals the following season and 51 last term. By the time he comes back to Old Trafford, he could have returned to a mere-mortal state of just twenty or thirty goals per season.
Injuries are undoubtedly taking their inevitable toll, further exacerbated by Ronaldo often refusing to spend spells on the sidelines, determined not to let Lionel Messi pull away from him in the goalscoring charts. Ronaldo’s most recent lay-off over the summer doesn’t seem to have affected him too much however – in fact, he’s bagged ten goals in just five La Liga outings this season.
Yet, nostalgia is a very dangerous thing. United won’t be getting the Ronaldo that left the Premier League in 2009, or the Ronaldo that won last year’s Ballon d’Or. It will be the Ronaldo Real Madrid no longer feel they need so intrinsically, serving them better in the transfer market than on the pitch.
Class remains a permanence but the Premier League will only become faster, stronger and more intense in the next few years – is this really the right environment for an ageing star of world football to see out his twilight years? That privilege usually gets reserved for Serie A or the MLS.
Of course, the situation could look incredibly different in two years’ time. After all, Manchester United may still be dwindling in the European wilderness at that point. Ronaldo could still be netting 50-odd times per season. Rooney may have undergone is second hair transplant. David Moyes could be back in the Old Trafford dugout. Okay, maybe not that last one.
But the point remains that amid their current malaise, United won’t find any solutions in their past. Just as Sir Alex Ferguson has proved irreplaceable, so is Ronaldo – even by the United icon himself.
Although in heart, United fans would be more than willing to wait two years for Ronaldo, in mind, they’ll know that in financial and footballing terms, it’s simply an unjustifiable scenario.
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