Simply put, Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the most complete soccer players to ever grace the pitch. Technically sound, enthralling, dramatic and flashy are all characteristics that describe the Portuguese sensation. As he did time and time again, Sir Alex Ferguson unearthed a gem of a signing and snapped up Cristiano from the noses of fierce rivals Arsenal and a plethora of European heavyweights vying for his signature. The transfer fee was 12 million for Manchester United to acquire his services from Sporting Lisbon. In 2009, there was constant speculation citing Ronaldo’s unhappiness at Old Trafford and six years on the trot, these same rumblings are emerging from the Spanish capital.
A quick look at the CV Ronaldo boasts at Real Madrid illustrates that perhaps Los Blancos are not matching his ambition. Despite capturing a Champions League and La Liga title, the trophy cabinet for a team of Real Madrid’s stature has been quite barren since Ronaldo’s arrival in 2009. Cristiano turns 31 in February of 2016 and the transfer fee Madrid paid for him of 131 million surely cannot be matched. However, one could argue that Cristiano will still play at an elite level for at least another 5-6 years and could possibly be worth the investment of a massive transfer fee. Why would he leave one of the top clubs in all of the world? Could it be for a chance at more success? After all, Los Blancos have to come up against a Barcelona side that continues to run rampant at will and an Atletico Madrid team that will scratch and claw to challenge in Spain and in Europe.
There is a growing discontent between Cristiano and all levels of management at Real Madrid. The 3-time winner of the Ballon d’Or does not support Rafa Benitez’s approach as manager of Los Blancos. Furthermore, there are reports that claim Ronaldo has a strained relationship with club president Perez since the sacking of former coach and friend Carlo Ancelotti. Why would Cristiano Ronaldo want to leave one of the most successful clubs on this planet? Could it be for an early vacation as he sees out his career in an environment with less pressure? Or is the will to win major European titles still what Ronaldo seeks? Who are the 15 potential teams that could sign a player of this magnitude? Find out who can match Cristiano’s ambition, wage structure and transfer fee in the paragraphs ahead.
15 Atletico Madrid
The fierce rivals of Real Madrid who continuously sell their best strikers year after year seem to have Cristiano’s number domestically. There have been many players who have been dubbed as a “Judas” figure and Ronaldo could make his mark after letting his contract run down with Los Blancos in 2018. Provided that Diego Simeone is still at the helm of Atleti in a few years, Ronaldo would be a perfect fit into the philosophical views of the fiery Argentine. Cristiano’s technique and prowess on the pitch are characteristics that Simeone could use to mold his rugged Atleti team into a European heavyweight.
14 Sporting Lisbon
As a youngster, Cristiano Ronaldo supported Benfica. However, scouts from all over the world realized what a talent Ronaldo was when he moved to the capital for a trial with Sporting Lisbon. Successful athletes have set goals for success and if Ronaldo has a nostalgic moment to remember where it all started, he could have some unfinished business at Sporting. That one friendly where Ronaldo was running rampant and at will for Sporting against Manchester United was the turning point for Sir Alex Ferguson to make his bid.
Sometimes, athletes return home to where the magic began and could Ronaldo stay true to his roots and repay the club that laid down the foundation for his success as one of the best ever? Time will tell.
Since the departure of Luis Suarez, Liverpool has lacked a serious goal scoring threat with Daniel Sturridge being plagued by injuries. With the arrival of Jurgen Klopp and the offensive style and flair that he brings to his teams, Ronaldo would fit the bill. As a 19-year-old, CR7 had an admiration for Liverpool stating that the Reds are one of the top teams in England and that it would be a dream to represent a club that is steeped in history and tradition. This would be Judas scenario part II as Ronaldo would be joining one of his former club’s fiercest rivals.
12 Al Saad
One of the Qatari Stars League giants, Al Saad have the ability to flex their financial muscle and lure Ronaldo into an unprecedented adventure. At age 35, Barcelona great Xavi has signed a three-year deal with the Arab team at a staggering 10 million per year. One could only imagine what salary Cristiano Ronaldo could yield if he would decide to make the jump to the desert in the prime of his sporting career. Wages aside, Al Saad might be one of the only teams in world football to afford a player of this magnitude and pay the massive transfer fee required for Ronaldo’s services.
11 Orlando City
A decade ago, the MLS seemed to be the laughing stock of professional soccer leagues across the globe. However, in recent years it is gaining reputability by attracting big name players from around the world. As an up and coming franchise, Orlando City has recruited Brazilian legend Kaka as its first marquee player.
Flavio Augusto da Silva, part owner of the Florida based franchise has expressed his admiration for Ronaldo and has labelled his potential coup as not only a major tactical capture, but one that would excel from a marketing perspective as well. To add fuel to the fire, Cristiano has stated his intent to eventually play in North America.
10 Inter Milan
Back in 2012, Ronaldo refused to rule out a move to Serie A stating that there are some fantastic teams on the peninsula. With the acquisition of the Italian giants, Eric Thohir is slowly wiping out the debt that the Nerazzurri once had and the team is competing for a Serie A title in 2015-16. Inter are only one of a select few of Italian clubs that could financially afford Ronaldo.
Thohir has already done a great job marketing the club in his homeland of Indonesia, but to really put Inter back on the European map, a statement signing like Cristiano Ronaldo is what the club really needs.
9 L.A. Galaxy
The lure of living in Los Angeles has already attracted the likes of David Beckham, Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard. The L.A. Galaxy have won five MLS cups and to preserve his legacy as a winner, Ronaldo might opt to choose a franchise that is successful over one that is in its infancy in the MLS.
When Ronaldo’s contract expires at Madrid, he would be 33 years old and fresh off a World Cup appearance and perhaps this would be the time to see out his playing days in the glitz and glamour in Hollywood. At 33, the Portuguese legend would still have a lot to give to the sport on a professional level.
If you can’t beat them, then why not join them? This move is farfetched, but Ronaldo has refused to rule out signing with heated rivals Barcelona. If a serious offer came in and afforded Real Madrid the chance to rebuild an entire roster, would Los Blancos even consider listening? How devastating would a quartet of Messi-Ronaldo-Suarez-Neymar sound? It wouldn’t even be fair. Ronaldo’s compatriot, Luis Figo, made the switch from Barcelona to Real Madrid in 2000 and the chance for Cristiano to stuff his trophy cabinet and move the opposite way before hanging up his boots is not being shot down.
Prior to joining Manchester United from Sporting Lisbon, Cristiano Ronaldo almost signed for Juventus. A dozen years ago, the Turin based team had a deal in place to bring CR7 to Italy’s most decorated club, but Marcelo Salas turned down the opportunity to join Sporting as part of a cash plus player deal.
Juventus do have a major card to be dealt with Paul Pogba and asking for Ronaldo in any deal wouldn’t do the Bianconeri any harm. Swapping a soon to be 31-year-old Ronaldo for a possible Ballon d’Or winning anchor in the midfield such as Pogba could be a shrewd piece of business.
Reports of Cristiano Ronaldo training for Arsenal with his own number 9 kit before being snapped up by Sir Alex at Manchester United could only leave Arsene Wenger to scratch his head and think of what could’ve been. Arsenal have one of the highest ticket prices in all of Europe and have a magnitude of riches and financial power.
In the last few years, Wenger has opened up the chequebook to sign the likes of Ozil and Alexis realizing that a frugal approach does not equate to trophies. Signing Ronaldo would definitely shift the balance of power in the English game to North London and make the Gunners serious contenders both domestically and in Europe.
Could Chelsea pull off a major coup to sign Cristiano Ronaldo? The answer lies in two words: Roman Abramovich. If Madrid consider Ronaldo to be on a steady decline in form, they might want to cash in. Considering how poorly Chelsea’s form is this year, they might not be able to offer Ronaldo Champions League football. However, what they may be able to offer is a reunion with his mentor and friend, Carlo Ancelotti, especially with Mourinho's departure.
In addition, Abramovich has an excellent working relationship with Ronaldo’s agent, Jorge Mendes, having signed players represented by Mendes including Falcao and most notably, Diego Costa. The Abramovich factor and the fact that blues could match an astronomical asking price, make Chelsea a player in the Ronaldo sweepstakes.
4 New York City FC
Could the purchase of an $18.5-million loft in Manhattan foreshadow a move to New York City FC? Players such as Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo, who have enjoyed magnificent careers in Europe, have moved across the pond to New York. This could be a viable solution for Cristiano as he could let his contract wind down at Madrid in 2018 and move to the United States. This is a move that is only likely to transpire once his playing days are over in Europe. No transfer fee needed as Ronaldo would be a free agent and another marquee player for the New York based club.
3 Manchester City
Although Ronaldo came out publicly to squash any thought of moving to Manchester City, stating that if he was motivated by money, he would rather move to Qatar. That being said saying no would be hard to a team who could offer 200 million for his services and could provide him with a top wage package. Sheikh Mansour, who is the owner of City, has an endless supply of riches and wouldn’t hesitate to drop $200 million for Ronaldo despite the so called financial fair play regulations imposed by UEFA. A team of Real Madrid’s stature might not need the money, but if money could talk, Manchester City would be the landing spot for CR7.
2 Paris Saint-Germain
With likely departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the summer of 2016, PSG will need a big name signing to match their ambition. If one team can have a wage package that blows any team out of the water, that team is PSG. This figure is £250,000-a-week and PSG could offer Ronaldo assurances that a team would be built around him. Furthermore, a move to Paris would also allow CR7 to continue competing for major honors both in a new competition such as Ligue 1 and in the Champions League. Adding Ronaldo would truly make PSG a force in Europe and enhance their reputation and image throughout the world.
1 Manchester United
Cristiano Ronaldo still dreams of returning to Manchester United, as is the sentiment that echoes from one of his former teammates. The manager of the Red Devils, Louis van Gaal has stated that Ronaldo is one of several stars that United is targeting. Although van Gaal’s rigid approach to his tactics might not appeal to Ronaldo, the fact that Sir Alex Ferguson is still an ambassador for the club might place United as the frontrunners.
Ronaldo would reunite with someone he has dubbed as a father figure in Sir Alex, who is still in and around the club. The Portuguese legend could look to add to his legacy in England where he scored 84 goals across 196 appearances by returning to Old Trafford.