You know it’s summer in Manchester not when the sun shines – that’s a notoriously unreliable barometer around here after all – but when the chatter about Cristiano Ronaldo returning to Old Trafford begins.
Ever since Ronaldo left United for Real Madrid in 2009 there’s been talk of a potential return. Often, during the Madrid years, that was impossible, despite talk of rifts and contract issues at the Bernabeu.
Three years ago he did leave the Spanish capital but Turin was the destination. A €100million transfer fee for a 33-year-old showed just how valuable Ronaldo was, on and off the pitch. He has also benefited from Italy’s tax laws to greatly increase his take-home pay.
Ronaldo still has a year left on his contract at Juventus but this summer the speculation has returned that he could be leaving. A total of 101 goals in 133 games is an impressive tally, but it’s hard to judge Ronaldo’s spell with Juve a complete success. He was signed with the sole intention of winning the Champions League and Juventus haven’t even come close, losing to Ajax, Lyon and Porto in the last-16 in those three seasons. To make matters worse, they surrendered their grip on the Serie A title this season.
As Juventus’ determination to cling on to the European Super League riches shows, the financial picture at the Allianz Stadium is bleak. Getting Ronaldo’s astronomical salary off the books might have its advantages. For his part, Ronaldo’s Instagram post a week ago declaring he’d achieved his goals in Italy hinted he was ready to move on.
So here we are again, with United a potential destination for Ronaldo if he does seek out a new club. He’s flirted with a return to Madrid as well, but there are very few clubs who could afford the salary demands of a 36-year-old Ronaldo and United are certainly more comfortable with that than Real at the moment.
But signing Ronaldo would still be a significant financial investment for United at a time when revenues have taken a hit during the pandemic. The attraction of bringing him back to Old Trafford is obvious, but is Ronaldo really what United need right now?
It would leave Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with two forwards – in Edinson Cavani and Ronaldo – who turn 35 and 37 next February. They can both be an example to the squad with their professionalism, but it doesn’t hint at any long-term planning.
United also have other priorities this summer. A right-winger, for starters, and while Ronaldo could play centre forward or on the left, his days as a natural right-winger are surely over. A central defender also looks essential given United’s struggles without Harry Maguire in the last two-and-a-half weeks of the season, with Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane and Pau Torres among the targets.
Should Manchester United try to re-sign Cristiano Ronaldo this summer? Have you say in the comments section.
Signings in central midfield and up front also haven’t been ruled out. Declan Rice has admirers at United for the former role. Ronaldo, in theory, could be classed as a centre forward signing, but really Solskjaer needs a long-term solution there, with next season likely to be Cavani’s last at Old Trafford.
Bringing Ronaldo back to the club would be a romantic move for United. It would delight the fanbase and sell a lot of shirts and he’s clearly still good enough to make a significant contribution.
But he cannot be a priority this summer. United have other areas of this squad that need attention if they’re to challenge for the title next season. Ronaldo alone is no guarantee of trophies these days. Just ask Juventus.