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Weekly social media posts published by Cristiano Ronaldo During this off-season, the football superstar usually showed up scantily clad, bulging muscles, either working out or promoting one of his many brands.
Staying relevant and visible is very important for a player who, along with Lionel Messi, is the greatest player of his generation. This also extends to the last years of his career on the field.
That’s why for Ronaldo, 37, who plays for Manchester United — still one of the most famous sports teams in the world, despite the recent trophy drought — that’s not enough. He wants to compete on the biggest stage, winning the biggest trophies as long as possible.
Hence the current showdown with United, which has become more devastating and disruptive over time as the new season approaches.
Publicly, Ronaldo has yet to return to pre-season training with the English club due to what has been described as “personal reasons”. Newly hired United manager Erik ten Hag is expected to repeat almost daily that Ronaldo will be back before the start of the Premier League and will be a key player in the team.
Reality seems to be different. Ronaldo is reportedly looking to leave after just one season at Old Trafford as United are no longer in the Champions League and out of shape to compete with top teams in England such as Manchester City and Liverpool. United finished sixth last season, 35 points behind first-placed City.
So, for now, the rest of the United team is touring Thailand. and AustraliaAfter gaining experience and getting to know ten Hag and his methods, Ronaldo returned home to Portugal with his family while his agent Jorge Mendes shopped around looking for a new club for his most famous client.
There is currently no buyer.
And the Premier League season starts in about two weeks.
“I don’t know what Cristiano said to the club and the manager,” said United midfielder Bruno Fernandes, who also plays alongside Ronaldo for Portugal. “I don’t know what’s in his head if he wants to leave. I didn’t ask them about it.
“From all we know,” Fernandes added, “he had some family issues so we have to respect his space, give him some space and that’s it. The only thing I asked Cristiano when he didn’t show up was if everything was ok. with my family. He told me what was going on, that’s all, and nothing else.”
On the face of it, United still want to keep Ronaldo – he was the team’s top scorer last season with 24 goals and has once again become the club’s symbol for the marketing department – and ten Hag called the striker “extremely important”. with the fact that “not for sale.”
But why are other top clubs cold about a player who is still a guaranteed source of goals and income?
Goals may be the goal of the game, but this is not enough for a modern coach. A certain level of mobility and the ability to be part of a team’s pressing game also goes a long way, and Ronaldo doesn’t offer that, even if he remains a supremely athletic player with that uncanny ability to come alive in the box and score points from anywhere. The structure of the team must change to accommodate a player like the aging Ronaldo, to hide his shortcomings and the need to make him the center of attention.
In short, his presence requires compromises. He is the problem and the solution.
Perhaps if he ends up staying at United, ten Hag can come up with a system where Ronaldo can thrive and the players around him can cover him and make the team work effectively. This is easier said than done.
Thomas Tuchel – a manager who values the team more than individuals – clearly thought that was impossible, given that his Chelsea team was one of the clubs that Mendes apparently spoke to. The Chelsea forward also had a clear hole when Romelu Lukaku returned to Inter Milan.
Bayern Munich are another team that reportedly turned down the chance to sign Ronaldo. Neither Real Madrid nor Juventus wanted to replace him either.
Ronaldo’s wage demands likely rule out most other clubs participating in this season’s Champions League, a competition in which he holds the record for most goals with 141 goals – 16 more than Messi – and for which he lives.
This puts Ronaldo in an awkward position. Still one of the best scorers in football, but a player that the best teams don’t want to see.
What will happen next? An uneasy truce with United and a shy return to a Europa League team unlikely to compete in the Premier League title? Or will Mendes be able to pull a blockbuster out of the bag, as he did last year when Ronaldo sealed a sensational return to England?
For his brand and his legacy, Ronaldo wants the latter, ending what turned out to be a nostalgic project with no happy ending.
And deep down, it could suit ten Hag as well, allowing him to start the job of rebuilding United from a clean slate.