When Cristiano Ronaldo secured a dream return to Manchester United last summer, fans and pundits alike predicted that his signing could send United over the edge as a team ready to compete for domestic and Champions League titles.
Sadly, it hasn’t quite worked out for everyone involved. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was not a good enough manager to lead that group of players to titles, and that became clear as the season went on. On November 22, after a shocking display and a 4-1 loss at the hands of relegation candidates Watford, Solskjaer was sacked. His replacement, German ‘godfather of the gegenpress’ Ralf Rangnick has improved things slightly, but United are in a serious battle with Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham just to qualify for the Champions League next season.
Ronaldo’s form has been up and down this season, but he has still shone bright when his team needed him most, highlighting how good he still is at the age of 37. He has 12 goals in 24 league appearances, including an incredible hat trick against Spurs in a 3-2 victory, which could prove vital in the top four race. On top of that, he performed well in the Champions League, scoring six in seven games. Reports have begun to surface that Ronaldo could have his return to United cut short as soon as this summer, and he could be on the move again. If United do indeed fail to qualify for the Champions League, it is hard to see him staying on as a Red Devil. In this article, we look at the potential destinations for CR7 next season if he were to leave. Former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson can’t see Ronaldo staying at Man Utd beyond the summer after the club failed to win a trophy this season, having been knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid. “You never know what Manchester United team’s going to turn up,” Merson told Sky Sports after Man Utd beat Spurs. “I always thought the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t great. He gets a hat-trick on Saturday and everybody’s going mad, but put the ball in the box and Ronaldo will score goals. It’s simple. “He’s not going to do two stepovers, beat two players and then smash the ball in the top corner – those days are gone. But put the ball in the box and the man is the best finisher there’s ever been. You can’t score that many goals if you’re not a good finisher.
“Do I think he’ll still be there next season? No, absolutely not. I’d be shocked if he was still there. I don’t think the manager who’s coming in is going to be as soft. I don’t think it’s going to work with him. If you want to win the Premier League, that isn’t happening.”
Having already completed one dream return to a club he owes so much to, maybe Ronaldo wants to go one further, and finish his career where it all started – at Sporting Lisbon. He played one season there as a teenager in 2002-03, scoring three goals in 25 league appearances. Last year, Ronaldo’s mother Delores stated it was her wish that he returns to the club he started his career at. She told the ADN de Leao podcast: “Ronaldo has to come back (to Sporting), he’d be here for me. He likes watching Sporting’s games. I’ve already told him: ‘Son, before I die I want to see you return to Sporting’. ‘Let’s see…’, he said.” Delores also gave a warning to Sporting’s current No.7 Bruno Tabata. She joked: “Today, no.7 belongs to Tabata…for now. When Ronaldo comes, it will be his! Ronaldo, coming here, will make up for it with the sales of shirts. In Manchester it was crazy.” Sporting Lisbon are current 7/2 favourites to sign Ronaldo in the summer transfer window according to sites with the best betting offers, and it would be a poetic end to a glorious career.
With it seeming more and more likely that Kylian Mbappe will be leaving the French capital and heading to Real Madrid, PSG will need to find a replacement for the Frenchmen. It would be stuff of dreams for football fans that have watched Ronaldo and Messi dominate world football for so long to finally see the two legends play together, and the financial and marketing opportunity to do so would make total sense for PSG. From a footballing perspective, to have two ageing players at the back end of their careers that don’t do much pressing may be an issue. Betting sites have PSG as second favourites to sign Ronaldo, with odds of 4/1.
We mentioned earlier that Kylian Mbappe looks set to sign for Los Blancos, and the possibility of his childhood hero Cristiano Ronaldo returning to the Bernabeu to link up with him would be enticing for Real Madrid. It seems unlikely, and his odds are currently 14/1 to make an incredible return to the Spanish club, but football is a funny game, and crazier things have happened. Football Insider reported in December that Real Madrid were ‘monitoring the situation’ regarding Ronaldo and were plotting a sensational return for the Portuguese star in the January transfer window. While that didn’t come to pass in the winter, Real could come back in for the player that is widely regarded as one of the greatest Madridistas of all time this summer. With Ronaldo almost certainly wanting to play Champions League football as his career winds down, if United fail to qualify for Europe’s premier club competition, a shock return to Madrid could be on the cards. To see Ronaldo, a man that has been one of the best players on the planet for so long play alongside Mbappe, the man who is widely regarded as the future face of the sport, would be incredible to watch.