Antoine Griezmann won’t give transfer silly season its lead storyline. Cristiano Ronaldo stepped into the breach. Reports say he wants to leave Real Madrid and has made up his mind. Not unrelated is the recent news that Spanish authorities have accused him of tax evasion.
If we’re betting, we’d say he stays at Real Madrid. It’s the world’s biggest club. He’s the clear star. The club, maybe the best in Real Madrid’s history, is coming off its second-straight Champions League triumph. There’s no better move. There’s no lateral move. He also just signed an enormous contract extension through 2021.
The most probable explanation would be Ronaldo trying to generate leverage. His stock is stratospheric right now after dominating the Champions League again and winning Euro 2016. Maybe he wants to get paid more than Messi, who will be signing a new contract. Maybe he wants Real Madrid to use its political weight to help him out with the tax case.
If Ronaldo were to move this summer, there are only two real options that would make sense.
Manchester United: It’s as close to Real Madrid regarding stature as you can get. It’s also Ronaldo’s former club, where he became a superstar. Ronaldo won the Champions League there. He won his first Ballon d’Or there. It’s a home, of sorts. Manchester United have the will and the Glazer bucks to get a deal done. He is the signing that can terrify everyone and bring United back to the top.
Qualifying for the Champions League gives United a legitimate chance. Jose Mourinho was Ronaldo’s former coach at Real Madrid. It’s not clear whether that’s good, bad or irrelevant.
One drawback may be the Premier League itself. Ronaldo, while still a phenomenal athlete, has a lot of miles. He will have noted how well he played the second half of the season after some time off. After turning 32 in February, does he really want to return to the fast and physical Premier League grind with no winter break?
Paris St. Germain: PSG has had rumored interest in Ronaldo for the past two transfer windows. Owned by Qatari Sports Investments, the French Club has the funding to make this signing happen. They will be looking for a decisive move, after failing to win Ligue 1 for the first time since 2012.
Paris is far from the worst place to end up, especially if you have a multi-million dollar fashion and lifestyle brand to consider. A less demanding French league schedule could keep CR7 fresh for the Champions League and the 2018 World Cup. The real question is why Ronaldo would play in the Champions League with PSG, when he could win it again with Real Madrid?
NOT HAPPENING BUT WORTH DISCUSSING
Other European Clubs: This would be a major longshot. It’s hard to see Ronaldo burning Manchester United to join another club in England. Pep Guardiola won’t be enough for him to join rival Manchester City. Chelsea doesn’t spend relatively the way it once did. Tottenham, Liverpool, and Arsenal aren’t happening. Italian clubs can’t afford him. The benefit probably won’t be worth the cost for Bayern Munich. AS Monaco will be selling players. There just isn’t a place for him to go.
Chinese Super League: The Chinese Super League has paid out astounding sums for second-tier stars. The bidding for Cristiano Ronaldo could get absurd. According to his agent, Ronaldo turned down a deal in December that would have paid him around $111 million per year in salary. Such a deal materializing now is unlikely. Ronaldo doesn’t need the money. He will still want to play at top level in the buildup for the 2018 World Cup. The Chinese Super League also clamped down on foreign signings with a luxury tax on foreign signings. The club purportedly willing to pay Real Madrid $335 million for Ronaldo, under the new rules, would cost $670 million.
MLS: LAFC launches in 2018. There were a lot of reports of LAFC being interested in bringing in Ronaldo after the 2018 World Cup. There weren’t reports of Ronaldo having the same level of interest. It’s possible Cristiano Ronaldo someday would opt for a sunny, relaxed and less lucrative semi-retirement with an MLS club in Southern California or Miami (if that club materializes). He’s not going to give up a silly amount of money to do it now, before the World Cup.