Football is full of examples of players returning to their old clubs, in an attempt to recapture former glories.
Whether it is done because fan’s love the nostalgia of the prodigal son returning home, managers needing a bit of spark to kick start a faltering season, or executives using it as a marketing ploy to create social media buzz and to sell a few thousand extra shirts, it is something we have seen happen time and time again. Of course, the results have been mixed; in some circumstances all parties have done well out of the deal, whereas in other examples the player has flopped, letting down both themselves and the fans, tarnishing their former reputation.
Robbie Fowler was a phenomenon during his first period at Liverpool. Breaking into the team as a teenager, he scored 120 goals in 236 games during his initial stint with the club, including what was for many years the fastest Premier League hat-trick of all time. He left in 2001 after 8 years with the club, before returning in 2006 for another spell. This time it wasn’t quite so fruitful, as he only managed 8 goals in 30 games, and was soon on his way out again.
Didier Drogba is a Chelsea legend, arguably one of their most important signings of all time. In his first eight years with the club, he helped them to three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, and most importantly scored the winning penalty in the 2012 Champions League final. He left the club that summer, before returning two years later. While he only managed 40 appearances in all competitions, he still played a key part on the pitch, and in the dressing room, to help Chelsea lift the Premier League again in 2015.
Cristiano Ronaldo returned to Manchester United this summer, after spending 6 years wearing the red of Manchester at the beginning of his career. He is regarded as one of the greatest players to ever turn out for the Red Devils, having scored 84 goals in 196 games for them, before making a move to Real Madrid, for a then world-record fee of £80 million. Now, at 36, he is back where he made a name for himself, with the fans of the club absolutely ecstatic about his return, seeing it as the final piece of the puzzle to propel the club back to regularly lifting trophies.
Many online sports betting websites, including Betonline Sportsbook believe he will make the difference in this year’s Premier League title race, and the Champions League. Is it that simple? Or, will Manchester United rue the day they brought Ronaldo back? Let’s have a closer look at both the club, and the player, to try to find out.
During Ronaldo’s first spell with the club, there was no question that Manchester United were the best team in the country, and had been for over a decade. During his time there they won the Premier League three years running, lifted the FA Cup in 2004, and won the Champions League in 2008. Ronaldo went on to lift the Ballon d’Or that year too, for his contributions to what was a phenomenal campaign.
While the club would win the title again twice after he left, they have really struggled since Sir Alex Ferguson retired as their manager. This decline has coincided with the ‘Noisy Neighbours’ Manchester City becoming the most successful side in the country, winning the league five times since 2011. United have spent over half a billion pounds trying to catch up with City and will need Ronaldo firing on all cylinders if they are going to topple Pep Guardiola and his boys in Blue.
As he moves into the later stages of his career, you’d have expected CR7’s influence to slowly decrease. However, in his final year at Juventus, he managed a remarkable 29 goals in 33 league games. So certainly he has lost none of his sharpness in front of goal.
Despite this, you could make the argument that his move to Turin has been a disappointment. He was signed to help them win the Champions League, having made the final the year before he joined. They never got near the later stages of the competition during his time there, losing in the last 16 in the most recent edition of the tournament.
Juventus were nailed on to win Serie A each year, and while they did just that in his first two seasons, they could only finish fourth in the 2020/21 campaign. The argument is that while he still scores goals, his overall influence on the game has waned significantly, and as he no longer has the ability to work on the defensive side of his game, he might end up costing United in the biggest games this season.
Whatever happens, the fans love that he is back, and will be chanting his name on every occasion. We’ll have to wait and see to find out if he can turn the hype off the pitch to success on it.