Manchester United have confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo will be leaving the club effective immediately after both parties reached an agreement.
The relationship between the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner and the Red Devils has been on a knife’s edge through the season but reached a breaking point after the former’s explosive interview with Piers Morgan last week.
With Portugal’s hopes of advancing in the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2022 resting firmly on the shoulders of Cristiano Ronaldo, the announcement will bring relief to fans of the star as he can now focus firmly on his on-field performance.
Ronaldo with Manchester United
Manchester United is Cristiano Ronaldo’s home, with the legend honing his skills for most of his teenage years under the watchful eyes of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Ronaldo made his debut with the Red Devils in 2003 after the club bought him for a record transfer fee from Sporting CP. While having a limited impact at the club for the first three seasons, Ronaldo impressed almost every critic with his skills and dedication to the game.
The period between 2006 and 2009 was arguably the high point of Cristiano Ronaldo’s career at Manchester United. He scored 42 goals in the 2007-08 season with the Red Devils – his most prolific contribution with the club to date. He claimed the Ballon d’Or that year, becoming the first player from Old Trafford to do so in four decades.
Cristiano Ronaldo became an international sensation by the end of the decade alongside Lionel Messi and transferred to Real Madrid for a world-record transfer fee. His return to Manchester United after almost a decade last season was hence widely anticipated and cheered, although concerns remained regarding his age and ability to fit within the team’s overall strategy.
His homecoming was widely followed,and Ronaldo delivered by scoring two goals against Newcastle United in his second debut. But relations soon soured between both parties, partially due to Ronaldo’s slump in form. Manchester United’s woes continued as a team as well and Ronaldo felt that the club was not living up to his expectations.
Despite the Red Devils finishing the season in a disappointing sixth place, Ronaldo finished the season with 18 Premier League goals – the third-highest in the league.
What Went Wrong This Season?
With the appointment of Erik ten Hag as their manager, Manchester United were looking for a change in their fortunes. Cristiano Ronaldo expressed his displeasure at the club’s vision even before the season began, with his agents negotiating with European clubs for a possible transfer.
But prohibitive wages and his relative slump in form meant that Ronaldo had to continue with the Red Devils, and Erik ten Hag assured the star that he would be a key part of the team.
These lingering issues burst out into the open when Ronaldo walked back to the dressing room, refusing to come in as a substitute in the game against Tottenham. In the interview with Piers Morgan, Ronaldo defended his actions, claiming that Erik ten Hag did not respect him.
He also accused the management at Old Trafford of deliberately provoking him by leaving him out of the starting XI in the games against Manchester City and the Spurs.
Overall, while issues from both sides existed, there was a fundamental mismatch between Cristiano Ronaldo’s ambitions and Manchester United’s vision for the future.
While the star can be accused of letting his emotions take over his judgement, it is also true that Manchester United are yet to figure out what kind of club they are in the new realities of the Premier League.
For Manchester United, the mutual termination of the contract will bring relief, avoiding complicated legal battles at a critical time. Ronaldo has reportedly waived off his remaining salary for the season and the Red Devils will have decent spending power heading into the January transfer window.
There are numerous issues still to be sorted out at Old Trafford, with Manchester United languishing in fifth place in the current season.
Mutual termination of the agreement means that Cristiano Ronaldo is now free to join any club he likes immediately and doesn’t need to wait until the transfer window. For now, Ronaldo’s focus will be on what is likely his last FIFA World Cup appearance, and leading the club to a trophy will instantaneously make him a sought-after player by European clubs.
At the same time, the stature of Cristiano Ronaldo means that any club that picks him must fundamentally change its tactics by playing around him. That might be too big a task for European giants in the middle of the season.
While his remuneration might decrease as a free agent, he remains one of the most expensive players in football, and any club has to shell out lots of money to avail of his services.
If no club which plays in UEFA Champions League picks him, Ronaldo might also look at shifting to the United States, where his services will be much appreciated by the upcoming clubs.
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