The mooted return of Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United has often been discussed in newspapers. Today he has been quoted as saying, “I love Manchester. Everyone knows that — I have said it many times. Manchester is in my heart. I left many good friends there, the supporters are amazing and I wish I can come back one day.” by the Daily Mail.
TalkOfTheDevils.com is able to delve a little deeper into the speculation and flesh out what we know to be true.
In 2010 – at the start of the 2010/11 season we were told by two former players who were coaching at the club that some of the senior players at Old Trafford (namedropping Rio Ferdinand in particular) were attempting to convince Ronaldo to return. They were in constant contact with the United legend and although Ronaldo was already playing superbly in Madrid, there was some speculation that he felt dissatisfied or under-appreciated by some of the more important players at the Bernabeu.
It had been made clear to Ronaldo at that point that the manager would take him back if he ever wanted to return – something that was later confirmed by Ferdinand and the manager himself.
Speculation remained just that. Ronaldo is no stranger to attention and enjoys being loved. His behaviour on his return to Old Trafford last February may well have been genuine but had more than an element of showmanship in it. Again, at the time we were told (though this too has since become no secret) that a number of United players tried to use that tie to convince him to return.
The timing of Ronaldo’s quotes are classic Cristiano. There’s no chance of a short term move because the window closed 3 days ago but his comments are well timed to keep up that love. So, how serious is he about returning and how likely is it to happen?
First of all it ought to be mentioned that Jorge Mendes, Ronaldo’s agent, has been involved in a public spat with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez over the rumoured signing of another Mendes, Falcao, who this week moved to United. Ronaldo has his own issues with Perez – the sale of Di Maria to United and the sale of Xabi Alonso to Bayern Munich have been questioned by the best player in the world.
Might Mendes have prompted Ronaldo to mention United in favourable terms? Maybe. Mendes has seen United flexing their financial muscles and noted the possibility of another major pay day in the offing.
But how likely is Ronaldo to want to leave Madrid? He was a goalscorer as Real won La Decima last season and if he scores at the rate he has done in recent years, he should surpass Alfredo Di Stefano as second highest Real Madrid scorer of all time, behind Raul. He needs 35 more goals to get there and 54 goals to become outright highest scorer by himself. With extra games in the World Club Cup this season, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that this is the season where Ronaldo breaks out as the leading goalscorer for the club.
His ‘God only knows’ antics don’t always go down well with United fans (nor did his ‘slave’ comment in 2008) but should he continue to score at his usual rate he’ll be among the frontrunners to win the Ballon D’or. To become Real’s highest scorer and win consecutive World Player awards would round off Ronaldo’s achievements in Spain. There’d be nothing left to accomplish except ‘more’. His comments have been interpreted in the Telegraph as such.
So, fast forward 12 months, would a move back to United appeal? He would be 30, arguably at the last moment to command a major transfer fee. The attention generated by such a move would inflate the ego of a player at a time most are assumed to have passed their peak and he will be able to consider a 3/4 year spell to hunt down the goalscoring record at United (likely, at that time, to have been broken by Wayne Rooney).
Ferguson has left United but would likely be influential in any return; most of the major figures involved in trying to persuade Ronaldo to return on the playing staff have gone too. United, however, have made a serious statement of intent this summer and what better move to make than signing one of the best players of all time, a loved player at the club and Real Madrid’s star man?
It’s all guess work and conjecture and Ronaldo’s words are more likely an engineering tool to get a new deal at Madrid but looking at Mendes’ weakening relationship with the club and president, the influence he has over his clients, and United’s eagerness to throw money at anything that can be seen as an instant marketing ploy, it may be the first time to begin to take the rumours a bit more seriously.