It wouldn’t be a dramatic transfer period if reports didn’t surface that Real Madrid ace Cristiano Ronaldo has expressed interest in leaving the club. In the wake of rival Lionel Messi’s lucrative contract extension at Barcelona, which includes an astonishing 700 million euros ($835 million) buyout clause, it’s no surprise the former United number 7 would want to match or exceed Messi’s paycheck.
Rumors of the Portuguese international’s desire to return to the Premier League began swirling close to 18 months ago when Ronaldo’s tax evasion accusations coupled Real’s reluctance to extend his current contract. Despite the string of trophies the reigning La Liga champions have acquired over the last year, Ronaldo’s economic woes paint an easy escape for him to make a triumphant return to England.
It’s a no brainer that Ronaldo is easily one of the best players to don a United kit. When he joined the Red Devils in 2003 on a £12.24 million transfer fee, he became United’s first-ever Portuguese player. During his six years at Old Trafford, Ronaldo bagged 84 goals in 196 appearances, earning 3 league titles under Sir Alex Ferguson.
While any club would be honored to have Ronaldo on their roster, let alone return for a second time, United have no business welcoming the striker back to Manchester. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t be elated if one of Mourinho’s buys during the summer transfer period included him, but it’s irresponsible financially and strategically to orchestrate a Ronaldo return.
At 33 years old, Ronaldo’s form is just as magnificent as it was during his teenage and prime football years at United. At this rate, he can easily play another half a decade, generating continuous winning seasons while adding to his already healthy 25-trophy collection. All that being said, United need to focus their attention on a player who can provide a full decade of services for the club. Atletico Madrid powerhouse Antoine Griezmann and Juventus forward Paulo Dybala are both extraordinary players who perform for their respective clubs just as well as Ronaldo, but still have plenty of time in their careers to make a statement under Mourinho.
Last year’s signing of Zlatan Ibrahimović was undeniably a happy change of pace for the Red Devils, but it wasn’t long after he began making a statement at Old Trafford that injuries began plaguing him, taking him off the pitch for seven straight months. While Ronaldo has been able to maintain a healthy physical demeanor in his career, I shudder to think that the amount Mourinho would invest to bring him back be worthless should Ronaldo become harmed within the first year of his contract.
New Number 7
I don’t need to remind my fellow United fans the responsibility that comes with wearing the number 7 on your back. Worn by legends such as David Beckham, George Best and my personal favorite Eric Cantona, any Red Devil with this number joins an elite fraternity. When he succeeded Beckham as United’s new number 7, Ronaldo eclipsed expectations and even earned the approval of Best, who was quoted saying that this was the first time it was a compliment that pundits compared any United player to him.
The January arrival of former Arsenal star Alexis Sánchez also meant that the vacancy for United’s new number 7 was filled. While Ronaldo’s time with that number was significant and memorable, it’s time for the Alexis era to begin.
In a recent interview, Mourinho expressed that United’s attack was “complete.” The Special One is absolutely right. With Sánchez assuming the position of right forward, that now leaves Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford essentially competing for a starting role on the left. In order to fit Ronaldo into his offensive lineup, Mourinho will undoubtedly have to sell a current player. All of the aforementioned men have tirelessly fought to maintain their status as a starter, and a Ronaldo return would counteract those efforts.
For a moment, the thought of Cristiano Ronaldo’s return seemed plausible. He gave Manchester United fans plenty of memorable goals to settle our appetites, and I would hate for a possible second stint to leave a nasty taste in our mouths. Regardless of where he decides to call it a career, Red Devils fans are forever indebted to the Portuguese magician for an incredible six years at The Theatre of Dreams.