The rumor that Cristiano Ronaldo could one day play in the MLS is not a new one, but the reports that began circulating last week had a little more substance behind them. Ronaldo's agent, Jorge Mendes, when asked what the future held for his client once his current deal was up at Real Madrid, replied saying, "maybe he will go to the USA, God will decide." Far from concrete evidence of an impending move but interesting that Mendes only mentioned America, and no other potential destination for Ronaldo, when he could easily have not answered the question at all.
The likes of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Kaka and David Villa have all recently made the move to the ever-growing MLS, but Cristiano Ronaldo would represent a major step-up even from those huge names of world soccer. Ronaldo signed a five-year deal at Real in September 2013, worth $206 million, which will keep him at the club until the summer of 2018, which is when any potential move to the MLS is most likely to take place.
Ronaldo won the Ballon d'Or in January, the third time he has picked up the award. He was also the second highest paid athlete in the world in 2014, behind only Floyd Mayweather, earning a reported $80 million for the calendar year. Ronaldo began his career at Sporting Lisbon before being signed by Manchester United in 2003, where he established himself as one of the best players in world soccer. In 2009 he became the most expensive player in the sports history following a $132 million move to Real Madrid where he has continued his meteoric rise through the game.
Here are the top 10 reasons why Ronaldo should join the MLS in 2018.
10 Untouchable on the national team
It is often a worry for players that if they leave one of the top European leagues, namely; the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga and Ligue 1, that they may lose out on a place in their national team. If Ronaldo were to join the MLS in the summer of 2018, the next World Cup in Russia would come before his move and would not damage his international credentials. Furthermore, Ronaldo is untouchable for the Portuguese team. It is not a squad full of quality; Ronaldo is head and shoulders above his international teammates. He already has 118 caps and should he want to continue playing internationally for many years, he is one of few players whose position in the national team is virtually assured, regardless of where he is playing his football.
9 Potential to buy his own team
There are no solid grounds to suspect that Ronaldo would want to set up his own MLS team, but is it really that unlikely? Much like David Beckham, Ronaldo is one of few soccer players with the financial muscle to set up his own team. Should Cristiano Ronaldo want to settle full-time in the US it is not wholly unlikely that he would see this as a worthwhile way to spend his days following retirement. The MLS's plan is to have 24 teams by 2020. There are currently 20 clubs with an Atlanta team, a Los Angeles team and Beckham's Miami team forming three of the potential additions, but still leaving room for another.
8 Set a precedent
The likes of Gerrard and Lampard are all valuable additions to the MLS but they are largely making the move because they are no longer top Premier League players. Jose Mourinho didn't even offer Frank Lampard a new contract at Chelsea and he is largely a substitute at Manchester City, whilst Steven Gerrard also currently finds himself on the bench at Liverpool. In three years time though, Cristiano Ronaldo will not be a rotation player. He would still be a huge asset to any team in the world, and should he make the decision to join the MLS it would undoubtedly set a precedent and change the ethos of many players.
7 MLS will be stronger by 2018
It is worth remembering that Ronaldo's projected move is likely to be, at the earliest, in the summer of 2018. If one looks back at the progress of the MLS over the last three years, should it continue to improve at the same rate, the league will be a much stronger one by the time Ronaldo makes his move. The influx of a number of high-profile players is an indication in the growing strength of the league, although it still has some way to go, all the signs suggest that the standard of soccer in America is only likely to improve.
6 Further MLS Credibility
As above, the MLS is growing at an impressive rate but still has a long way to go. The league cannot afford to let things stagnate and must continue its progress. Cristiano Ronaldo would be playing at a time when he would still be a world class soccer player. Sebastian Giovinco's move at the age of 28 shows that European players are willing to join the MLS not just once they are no longer capable of playing in one of the major leagues, and Ronaldo would do this on a much greater scale and establish the MLS as a league worthy of worldwide respectability.
5 Best player to ever play in the MLS
It is no secret that Cristiano Ronaldo is a man with something of an ego. He does not lack self-confidence, to put it politely, and the idea of being not only the best player in the league, but also the best to ever play in it, is likely to be something that would appeal to him. He is a man who revels in praise and acclaim and in a league where he would flourish, they would most likely come his way in abundance. He wouldn't have to share the spotlight with anybody.
Amid the reports of Ronaldo joining the MLS there has also been a lot of emphasis put on which potential teams he would see fit for him. These destinations are not wholly surprising. They are New York, Los Angeles and Miami. This suggests Ronaldo is putting an onus upon a lifestyle and a way of life, as he sails towards the swansong of his career. In this respect, the aforementioned cities can compete with almost anywhere else on earth, especially for a very wealthy superstar who lives a lavish lifestyle, as Ronaldo does. If he's going to MLS, no offense, but he's not playing for Real Salt Lake or Sporting Kansas City.
3 MLS worldwide exposure
In February, Sky Sports announced a four-year deal to broadcast the MLS in the United Kingdom. The move signaled an expansion of the league and gave the first indication that the MLS could be attracting interest from outside North America. As it stands, it is unlikely the MLS will attract particularly impressive viewing figures compared to the likes of the Premier League and La Liga, but the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo would have a substantial impact upon that. Ronaldo is a superstar capable of producing magic with a football and people all around the world love to watch him play. Not only would his signing set a precedent but also the move in isolation would be of significant importance to the MLS worldwide.
2 He's Won Everything In Europe
Cristiano Ronaldo really has won everything in Europe. The only thing bigger than his ego is his trophy cabinet. The Premier League, FA Cup, La Liga, Champions League, Copa del Rey, Super Cup, Ballon d'Or, FIFA World Player of the Year, the list goes on. The only thing left to keep Ronaldo going is an ongoing competition with Lionel Messi as the pair vie for the title of world's greatest player. However, by 2018 Ronaldo will be 33 and Messi only 30, and the Portuguese man may be keen to depart on a high rather than seeing the Argentine supersede him as the undisputed best player in the world. The fact that Ronaldo has nothing left to win or to prove could factor into his decision when he considers a possible move to the MLS and a fresh challenge.
1 Expand his own brand
Much like David Beckham, Ronaldo is not just a soccer player. He is a brand, an image if you like. Ronaldo's brand is called 'CR7', they sell underwear, socks, shirts, football boots, sporting wear and various accessories. He also has major endorsement deals with Nike, Coca-Cola, Castrol, Konami, Fly Emirates, Samsong and many others. Cristiano Ronaldo is a worldwide superstar, both on and off the pitch. The one market in which it could be argued he has not yet fully capitalized upon is the North American one. Once more, much like David Beckham back in 2007, a move to the MLS would represent a huge opportunity for Ronaldo to expand his brand in the only region there is left for him to conquer.