As if to liven up everybody’s tired Fridays, the word out of Spain is that Cristiano Ronaldo has made an “irreversible” decision to leave Real Madrid. Which means, naturally, that it’s time to speculate about him returning to Manchester United. Time for tBB to have an argument with, er, tBB ...
So, should United bring Ronnie home?
Ronaldo is one of the best players in the history of the game. But he is also, more relevantly, one of the best players in the game at the moment. He scored 42 goals in 46 games last season, including 12 in the Champions League. He is still in exceptional physical shape. There isn’t a team in the world that he wouldn’t improve.
Right, but he’s 32. 32 becomes 33 in February, then 34 a year later. Even for somebody as obsessively well-maintained as Ronaldo, even for somebody so devoted to adapting, evolving, and refining his game down to a sharp point, it would be a short-term move. And he would, of course, have to play every game, while Marcus Rashford festers behind him.
Okay, but still: yes
We learned this season that Ronaldo is serious about extending his career as far as possible. There were reports that he’d lost weight in preseason, and he even accepted — well, tolerated — a little bit of rotation in the middle of the season, the better to finish strongly. Which he did: of those 12 Champions League goals, five came in the Champions League quarter-finals, three in the semis, and two in the final. Against Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, and Juventus. The biggest, most difficult games.
Let’s think about why he’s suddenly decided to up and leave, shall we? (Assuming, of course, he has.) Is it because he’s desperate to come back and conquer the Premier League again? Is it because he’s realised that he just looks better in red? No, it’s because he’s in trouble for, allegedly, dodging his taxes. Old Trafford might be a suitable venue for a returning hero; not so much a fugitive from justice. Allegedly.
Look, you’re just being silly
This is Ronaldo. He is perhaps the world’s preeminent obsessive, and his obsession — kicking a football into a net — is one that Manchester United could usefully employ. Whatever his motivations in moving, once he’s moved, he’ll be his old, goal-hungry self again. He doesn’t know how to do anything else.
We saw last season what happens when United build themselves around a singular goalscorer: he scores loads, but the team aren’t very good. Real Madrid won the title and the Champions League not just because Ronaldo scored loads of goals, but because they had an exceptional team around him. United need to be building such a team. Ronaldo would amount to an extremely expensive sticking plaster.
A sticking plaster?
You heard me
United need three or four good-to-very-good players aged around 23 or 24, that can grow together as a team and become, individually and collectively, brilliant. They don’t need to be kicking their problems a little further down the road, and spending money on a brief present when they could be investing in a more durable future.
Well, why not both?
A couple of seasons of Ronaldo would not only be great fun, but it would end with Paul Pogba aged 26, Bailly and Lindelof 24 and 25, Rashford still only 21 ... it’s hard to see how two years playing with one of the world’s great goalscorers, and training with one of the world’s best trainers, could be a bad thing.
Anyway, it doesn’t matter
He’s not moving. A few weeks of rumours, a fat new contract, and big smiles all round.
No, he’s not