Cristiano Ronaldo is 37-years-old and finds himself at the end of the line.
With links to Bayern Munich just weeks ago and already having engineered sensational moves when it suited him in recent years — first from Real Madrid to Juventus, and then back home to Manchester United — he now finds himself without UEFA Champions League football and no takers. Spanish daily MARCA took a look at why.
The man whose name dominated football headlines uninterrupted alongside Lionel Messi for the better part of well over the last decade is finding himself a discarded commodity. It’s normal for a player to be linked to a variety of clubs — in his case, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Chelsea FC, even Sporting CP among them — and for a variety of reasons.
In this case, though, it’s the fruitless search of an agent (Jorge Mendes) who has seemingly begged every European giant to take his client, to a firm chorus of no in response.
Bayern, of course, were among the earliest linked and the earliest to refuse. Persistent rumors that no, secretly, the German Rekordmeister were exploring the option of replacing glamor with glamor after Robert Lewandowski’s departure to FC Barcelona were firmly put down by CEO Oliver Kahn, who said: “Despite the appreciation...he would not have fit in our philosophy.”
And now Bayern’s moves in attack are firmly closed this transfer window after the signing of teenage wonderkid Mathys Tel — the Bavarian giants looking firmly to the next generation rather than the past one.
MARCA reports that Chelsea FC head coach Thomas Tuchel has zero interest, even as the Blues continue to search for their own striker. That search may have now landed on RB Salzburg phenom Benjamin Šeško — another teenage talent looking to become the next generation of what players like Ronaldo represented on the pitch.
And what about PSG? The head coach and sporting director have changed, and so has the philosophy. The Parisians are now team-building more seriously rather than loading up on glitzy brand-name attackers, and that once again leaves Ronaldo out of the picture.
In Spain there is perhaps the greatest intrigue. Per MARCA:
His former club did not contemplate the possible return of the highest scorer in their history, while many Atletico Madrid fans expressed their opposition to a potential Cristiano Ronaldo signing.
Atleti’s international fan groups union even issued a statement in which they expressed their “absolute rejection” of the possibility of signing Ronaldo, “who represents the antithesis of the values that are the hallmarks of our Atleti.”
That leaves Sporting, the club of his youth, before his first stint at Old Trafford. They play in the Champions League, but may well be otherwise beneath his ambitions, which have taken both he and his teams on a bumpy journey.
Ronaldo arrived in Italy in the summer of 2018 to fanfare, promising to renew global interest in the league with his stardom and to bring already-dominant Juventus to even greater heights in Europe. Instead, they never made it out of the Round of 16, and crashed to a fourth-place Serie A finish in 2020/21 (ending their league title run at nine), and Ronaldo bounced.
At Manchester United last season, he saw three coaches — none of whom survived the season — and again got drummed out of the Champions League in the Round of 16. The Red Devils are also finally getting serious, and that also means dimmer prospects for Ronaldo, who may be a fish out of water in new coach Erik ten Hag’s high-pressing, high-energy system.
It is Ronaldo himself who is trying to force his way out, however, his latest antic being to depart the stadium before the end of a pre-season friendly in which he had played. As usual, the question seems not to be what he can bring to a team, but what his team can offer him. When that’s no longer sufficient, he leaves others to pick up the pieces of what he’s left behind, and moves on.
Or at least, he tries to. These are difficulties he’s never encountered before.
But as he might finally be finding out, as teams who have rolled out the mat for him up to now have already learned the hard way: stardom isn’t everything.
At United — who have made the UEFA Europa League, after all — there may still be a spot on the squad for him, if he’s willing to fight for it like any other player on the team.
And so for once in his life, Ronaldo may have to learn to accept that his wishes aren’t the only ones that matter.