Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo is edging closer to a return to Manchester United after becoming increasingly unhappy at the number of big names allowed to leave the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu over the last year. Ronaldo has gone on record with his displeasure at the likes of Mesut Özil, Xabi Alonso and Ángel Di María all leaving the club in the last two summer transfer windows.
Rumors that Ronaldo himself was also looking to leave the club in protest were fueled by ex-Real President Ramón Calderón, who said the Portuguese is unhappy at the mass exodus of star names. Although big names such as Gareth Bale and James Rodríguez have joined Real over the past year, Calderón claimed Ronaldo has reached the breaking point with the policy of current President, Florentino Pérez.
Former United defender and current TV pundit, Gary Neville, who played with Ronaldo at Old Trafford, said the arrival of Di María and Radamel Falcao made it “more possible” for Ronaldo to return to his old club. Premier League rivals Manchester City and Chelsea have both been linked with moves for the player, but it is understood Ronaldo would prefer a move back to where he spent his early twenties. Besides, a move to City would be deeply unpopular with the fans who still chant his name at matches.
Ronaldo switched to Real in 2009 for a then record $129 million. Ex-United boss Sir Alex Ferguson later said that United could have held out for $162m, such was Real’s desire to land the player. The player’s mood has not been helped by a disappointing start to the new Spanish season. Real lost to Real Sociedad and title rivals Atlético Madrid in two consecutive matches. The press backlash after the defeat to Atlético was so strong that Real coach Carlo Ancelotti was pressed to comment on his future, although he said he did not fear for his job.
Although Ancelotti’s position does appear to be safe now, a Ronaldo exit would only add pressure on the Italian. Although Ronaldo would not be expected to leave Real until the summer – if he is to leave at all – an early exit in this year’s Champions League might see him tempted to join United in the January transfer window.
The world’s media has long pressed Ronaldo on a return to United and he has always talked about his affection for the club and said he would like to return one day. However, surrounded by a team of players who won “La Decima” last season, Ronaldo had high hopes for the new season. Since then, the number of exits from Real has set alarm bells ringing for Ronaldo and many in the game can see the unhappy player edging ever closer to a United return. So far Real and Ronaldo have yet to comment publicly on the reports surrounding the player’s future, but with each passing defeat, Real seem to lose their grip on a player who has fired them to La Liga and Champions League glory since he joined in 2009.
Commentary by Robert Shepherd