The match between United and Real Madrid in March may have ended in acrimony following Nani’s send-off, but before that it was one giant love-in; the United crowd roared Ronaldo’s name when it was announced on the PA, and the returning hero clapped his adoring public. Ronaldo refused to celebrated either goal during the tie, and even spent time in United’s dressing room after the Bernabeu match – leading many to suggest his love of the club remains undimmed.
Re-signing Ronaldo has clear merits for United, on and off the field. Sir Alex Ferguson would be able to combine Ronaldo with Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie in what would surely be the deadliest attacking trident in world football, while the signing would be an even greater PR coup for United’s owners, the Glazer family, than the transfer of Van Persie last summer. United are set to turn over £360m this year, meaning the shackles imposed by the Glazer’s debts are looser than before.
But even with their new-found commercial bounty, United cannot compete with the billionaire owners who run some of Europe’s other major powers, and Ferguson is already well-stocked on the wing, with English prodigy Wilfried Zaha, whose style is similar to Ronaldo’s, already on his way. United’s attack appears the least of Ferguson’s worries as he looks to take on football’s new German elite, and he may be reluctant to splurge his entire summer transfer budget on bringing Ronaldo back.
With Mourinho apparently bound for the Bridge, what chance that he takes his compatriot with him? Ronaldo has consistently produced the goods for his boss over the last three years at Real Madrid, and Mourinho will feel he has played a role in making his star player even better. The ‘Special Two’ have forged quite a partnership in Madrid, and Roman Abramovich would be more than happy to transplant it to west London.
But Ronaldo’s admission that he doesn’t really care about Mourinho’s destination hints at a detachment between the pair, despite the obvious similarities in their character. Furthermore Mourinho tends not to like star players, and has marginalised galacticos such as Kaka and Iker Casillas during his time at Real Madrid.
Mourinho inherited Ronaldo at the Bernabeu, and there’s no guarantee he would want to take such a high-profile player with him – particularly as Ronaldo’s ‘will I, won’t I’ statements on his future have been so disruptive this season.
Paris St. Germain
Of all the options facing Ronaldo, this one surely makes the most sense. Paris St Germain can not only pay big wages, but they are already a major force, with the likes of Javier Pastore, Lucas Moura and Zlatan Ibrahimovic helping them to reach the Champions League quarter-finals this season.
Like City, PSG are very much nouvaeu-riche, and enjoyed only limited success until recently. But unlike City they play in one of the world’s most glamorous cities, and David Beckham has given them a global allure that would surely appeal to Ronaldo. Plus Paris is almost as convenient as Milan for his girlfriend.
Although manager Carlo Ancelotti appears destined to leave this summer, PSG’s constellation of bright young attacking players will stay, so Ronaldo would be stepping into a team brimming with attacking menace. The team, the city, the status and the money offered the Parisian arrivistes all appear favourable, a compelling concatenation of incentives which the world’s most valuable footballer may find impossible to refuse.
One of Europe’s grandest names could provide a stage befitting Ronaldo’s monstrous ego, and chairman Massimo Moratti is always happy to throw millions of euros at players – particularly at a time when city rivals AC have signed Mario Balotelli and are being linked with Cesc Fabregas. Ronaldo’s girlfriend Irina Shayk is an international model, so one presumes she would approve of a move to Europe’s fashion capital.
Then again, if Ronaldo takes a glance at Inter’s squad list he may be disabused of any desire to head for the San Siro. The Nerazurri squad is ageing; captain Javier Zanetti is 39 while key players Esteban Cambiasso and Dejan Stankovic are well into their thirties. Ronaldo has appeared to struggle at times this season, due to Real’s over-reliance on him; at Inter, the problem would be multiplied ten-fold.
After City endured such a disappointing time in the transfer window last summer, the Blues will be desperate to make a more positive statement this time – and they have hired Barcelona’s top deal-makers specifically for this purpose. Money has long stopped being an object at Eastlands, and City’s Emirati owners would love to get one over on United by snatching a former Old Trafford hero, and make a statement as brash as the Carlos Tevez ‘Welcome to Manchester’ posted four years ago.
However Ronaldo’s oft-professed loyalty to United and his ‘second father’ Sir Alex Ferguson may mitigate against such a move, as would his knowledge of City’s past; Ronaldo was in Manchester when the Blues did not have a pot to pee in, fielding players such as Michael Ball and Jon Macken to get by. He knows how recently City acquired the status they enjoy today, and may want a club with greater standing in the game.