Ronaldo reports will excite Man United fans, but PSG move makes more sense

Another season, another spate of rumours about Cristiano Ronaldo leaving Real Madrid.

Indeed, pretty much ever since he swapped Old Trafford for the Bernabeu in 2009, a month hasn’t passed without speculative reports linking the three-time Ballon d’Or winner with a sensational return to Manchester United, twisting every loosely-relatable quote and hyperbolically analysing every facial expression that might suggest mild disillusionment in the Spanish capital.

August, September and October have been no different. Yet, the recent rumours seem to have a little more substance for a few important reasons.

First of all, the dialogue coming out of the Bernabeu is certainly more ambiguous than it once was. Super agent Jorge Mendes – also of Diego Costa and Jose Mourinho fame – once claimed Ronaldo would retire a Real Madrid player. But club president Florentino Perez refused to commit himself to such a scenario last month, whilst manager Rafa Benitez questioned the Portugal international’s status as the best player in the world – an enormous faux pas in Los Blancos circles.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo said earlier this week that he’d like to play with Wayne Rooney again.

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Similarly, the former Chelsea and Liverpool gaffer’s appointment probably hasn’t sat too well with the 30 year-old. He was a big fan of predecessor Carlo Ancelotti and in stark contrast to the notoriously amicable Italian, Benitez has a knack of rubbing his key players up the wrong way – something Reds legend Steven Gerrard recently testified to.

Likewise, there’s not much left for Ronaldo to achieve at the Bernabeu.

He’s won the Champions League, the Copa del Rey and La Liga, albeit without the regularity expected when moving to Madrid for £80million six summers ago, and is now just one goal way from breaking Raul’s all-time top scorer record, an enormous, historic and prestigious achievement at a club as big as Real.

It’s by no means outlandish to suggest Ronaldo might want a new challenge; a fresh motivation that will decelerate his inevitable and eventual decline. At the same time, he’ll be 31 by the end of the season and will have entered the final two years of his Bernabeu contract. If Real Madrid wish to rake in a huge fee – perhaps even trumping their original investment – summer 2016 is unquestionably the best time to sell. Not that the La Liga giants have ever given two hoots about resale value.

But despite reports this week of a planned £92.5million bid, Manchester United fans shouldn’t get too excited just yet. Although a Bernabeu departure is now more plausible than ever, rumours of a PSG switch make far more sense than Ronaldo simply returning to his old stomping ground.

No doubt, the Portuguese holds an eternal soft spot for the club that transformed him from a dangerously arrogant prospect into the world’s most expensive player, the first half of a process that made him arguably the greatest footballer of a generation.

But United spent £60million on Memphis Depay and Anthony Martial this summer and Louis van Gaal clearly expects both to develop into United’s leading entities, which makes you wonder where Ronaldo would actually fit in a front-line also including seemingly undroppable skipper Wayne Rooney. Likewise, it would be rather short sighted to say the least for United to invest such a significant sum in two of European football’s most promising prospects, only to sign a 31 year-old who will expect to start over both for £30million more just twelve months down the line.

Perhaps most crucially, returning to United wouldn’t be a new challenge for Ronaldo. He won everything going with the Red Devils. At PSG, on the other hand, the forward has the chance to create a genuine legacy if he fires the French outfit to their first ever Champions League title, the honour president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has relentlessly honed in on, sanctioning a €551million spend, since the Qatari take-over in 2011. They certainly have the finance to spend another £90-oddmillion on Ronaldo.

Likewise, the timing seems right for the Parisians. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s contract will expire at the end of the season and according to reports during the summer, PSG don’t intend to offer the 33 year-old a new deal. But the French champs still need that ‘wow factor’ which will allow them to attract Europe’s best to an inferior and uncompetitive domestic league. Ibrahimovic gave them pulling power in the market, something arguably more significant than his talent and goals, and Ronaldo is one of the few players in world football who can match the enigmatic Swede in that regard.

Of course, crazier things have happened before in the world of football and the emotion involved in a return to Manchester United could well override any form of rationale hinting at PSG move. Furthermore, this article is just a theory, albeit inspired by ongoing tabloid chatter.

But my word of warning to Red Devils fans, even if Ronaldo openly admits that he plans to leave Real Madrid next summer, is quite plainly not to get your hopes up. Testing a new frontier that desperately needs a player of his profile rather than simply revisiting an old one makes far more sense – not only for Ronaldo but for PSG and Manchester United as well. 

 


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