Last summer, Bayern Munich were regularly in the news for rejecting the advances of Cristiano Ronaldo and his agent, Jorge Mendes. It was quite the story to follow. The media could not help but talk about the chaos at Manchester United following the arrival of Erik ten Hag, and CR7’s desperate attempts to leave the club after only just arriving in the summer of 2021.
Why did Bayern Munich get involved in this story? Well, with the departure of Robert Lewandowski to FC Barcelona, outsiders pinged the German giants as the perfect destination for CR7 and his legion of fanboys. People were convinced that Bayern and Ronaldo were a match made in heaven, and a deal would be worked out in time.
That did not happen.
Hasan Salihamidžić rules out a move for Cristiano Ronaldo once again: "I have a lot of respect for Cristiano Ronaldo, his success and his career. But once again: That was and is not a topic for us" [@kerry_hau]— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) July 16, 2022
Repeat that same statement ad-nauseam for the entire summer, by every Bayern executive (including Kahn and Hainer) and the coach as well. Bayern were the only club to reject Ronaldo so publicly, but it was taken as a sign that “CR7” was no longer the coveted superstar that he had once been.
In the end, the Cristiano Ronaldo was forced to stay at Man United.
Who saw it coming?
Bayern’s rejections were met with mixed opinions at the time. Some saw it as a missed opportunity to grab a proven goalscorer with a massive international fanbase. It was argued that, with the loss of Lewandowski, Bayern needed a proper striker with Champions League pedigree. Others pointed to the massive commercial benefits for Bayern and the Bundesliga as a whole, after losing two superstars in Lewy and Haaland in the same summer.
However, some groups — mainly fans of Juventus and Man United — showed more understanding to the decision made by the club bosses. They saw Bayern’s rejection of CR7 for what it was — a prudent decision made by a superclub prioritizing on-pitch success over big name transfers.
What’s happening now?
Relations between Ronaldo and United have been tense for months now. The Portuguese forward rarely sees game time these days, mainly playing a substitute role or making appearances in the Europa League. Ten Hag, who learned from Pep Guardiola during his time as coach of Bayern II, does not see CR7 as a suitable component for his high-pressing, high-workrate system.
Ronaldo has not reacted well to being a misfit. The latest flareup saw the 37-year-old leave the stadium early during a key game between Man United and Tottenham, after refusing to be subbed on. Ten Hag later confirmed the reports in his press conference:
Erik ten Hag confirms Cristiano Ronaldo refused to come on against #THFC.— Dan Sheldon (@dansheldonsport) October 21, 2022
Ten Hag: “There has to be consequences. It is important for the attitude and mentality of the group. I have to set the standards & values and control them.”@TheAthleticUK #MUFC https://t.co/mvPqIYoysH
After this incident, it was announced that Ronaldo would not be in the squad for the upcoming game against Chelsea FC. According to The Athletic’s Laurie Whitwell, he will also train alone for the time being.
The situation seems untenable for both club and player at the moment.
What did Bayern see?
This isn’t the first time Bayern have rejected the idea of signing Ronaldo. When the player originally moved from Real Madrid to Juventus for an eyewatering 100m euro transfer fee, then CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge commented that “Bayern would have never done such a thing.”
Back then, this statement was met with much derision from the CR7 and Juventus fanbases, but KHR proved correct in his assessment. Despite breaking the bank on Ronaldo, the Old Lady actually saw their performances decline in the following seasons, especially in Europe. Even with Ronaldo scoring regularly for them, something was amiss at Juve and they failed to reach their heights from the 2015-2018 years.
The same happened when he moved back to Man United. A promising project under coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer quickly turned sour a few months after Ronaldo’s arrival, despite the Portuguese superstar still contributing on the scorer’s sheet. Like with Max Allegri, Maurizio Sarri, and Andrea Pirlo before him, Solskjaer became the fourth consecutive coach to be sacked by his club after coaching Ronaldo.
You could point to the systemic issues plaguing both these clubs as the real reason for their coaches’ downfall, and you would be correct. However, signing and playing the modern day version of CR7 is a symptom of those systemic issues. Ronaldo brings a rot to any current-day team, and clubs who cannot see that meet their demise very quickly.
There is a reason why no big, UCL-caliber team came for Ronaldo this summer. Well-run teams like Bayern Munich, Manchester City, and Real Madrid see no role for a 37-year-old specialist goalscorer who doesn’t work off the ball and can’t press. There’s a reason why Ten Hag’s “new look” United team has no space for Ronaldo, despite utilizing frankly mediocre players like Antony Martial and Marcus Rashford.
Modern day football is about roles and profiles, not superstars. Bayern Munich recognize this and act accordingly in the transfer market. It’s not like the current board is averse to spending, they greenlit a €76m spend on Matthijs de Ligt this summer despite already having the Dayot Upamecano (€40m) and Lucas Hernandez (€80m) on the squad already.
It’s clear that the game has passed Ronaldo by. He’s no longer your key to winning the big trophies, and don’t be surprised to see him retire or go to MLS in the coming weeks. Or maybe Borussia Dortmund could take a punt on him? Now that would cause the kind of delicious chaos we’d appreciate.