This is an updated version of an article first published on July 26.
The Portuguese international, currently on duty with his country in world Cupended his second stint at United after leading a explosive interview with television personality Piers Morgan, in which he criticized the Glazer familymanager Erik ten Hag and aspects of club management.
As United prepare for move on without Ronaldothe player must now face their own future – which at first glance seems much less certain given that there seems no chance of another premier league club moving for him, or one of his former clubs Juventus and real Madrid make an offer.
Ronaldo remains one of the sport’s biggest marketing draws. He has the most followed account on Instagram, with 501 million followers, and has over 720 million followers in total on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
The business benefits of signing one of the sport’s most iconic figures are obvious, but who could be realistic suitors to strike a deal?
In his interview with Morgan, Ronaldo confirmed that the suggestions he was offered £305million over two years to play in Saudi Arabia were true.
When asked how hard it was to turn down the offer, he replied, “It’s hard. It’s hard. But equally, I thought I was very happy here (at United); that I’m still able to score goals and make people happy.
Could the Saudis be tempted to try again?
According to Forbes, Ronaldo is the third highest paid athlete in the world, and the striker was expected to earn around $115m (£96.3m) this calendar year. Money doesn’t seem to be Ronaldo’s main motivation at this stage of his career but the Saudis would have no problem paying his salary.
With Newcastle thriving in the Premier League and the national team on the rise after their remarkable victory against Argentina at the World Cupthey may just think it’s time for another major statement of intent.
Ultimately, it could come down to whether Ronaldo is ready to fall into a relatively murky league, given the importance he says Champions League football is for him.
The club where it all started for Ronaldo as a teenager, so there’s a certain charm to him coming back for one last dance.
That’s certainly how Ronaldo’s side could turn it should a move materialize and Sporting are a serious footballing proposition under Ruben Amorim. It would also be a good test of whether the suggestions that money is not a motivation for Ronaldo are really true, given that Sporting would not be able to afford to come close to his salary at United.
A more pressing issue could be Sporting’s chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League, which is far from guaranteed.
Chelsea’s new co-owner Todd Boehly met Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes in June and the striker’s future was discussed.
The skepticism was led by then-Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel, but even now that the German has left Stamford Bridge it’s not believed there’s an appetite for Ronaldo to move again.
Napoli were also credited with an interest in Ronaldo, but this came at a time when the club seemed to need a boost.
They finished seven points behind the Serie A champions AC Milan and coach Luciano Spalletti said it would be “extremely difficult” for Napoli to finish in the top four again this season.
Naples, the former home of Diego Maradona, is a city no stranger to individual maverick talent, but that would require a huge economic outlay to secure Ronaldo’s services, and also risk upsetting the sporting project. by Spalletti.
Before Ronaldo joined United last year, Manchester City were another possible option to sign him. One of the factors that persuaded Ronaldo to opt for Old Trafford was a conversation with Rio Ferdinand about how a move to City might tarnish his legacy at United.
Over the summer, Atletico Madrid are said to have an interest in Ronaldo, but given his concern about tarnishing his legacy at United, it would be reasonable to assume he might have similar thoughts about doing the same with his legacy at Real Madrid.
As for Atletico, signing a player who would demand salaries the size of Ronaldo would be next to impossible.
When Ronaldo told the United hierarchy he wanted to leave this summer if a appropriate offer was made for him, Bayern Munich was one of the clubs informed of his situation.
However, Bayern chief executive Oliver Kahn played down the fact that they were ever interested. In July, Kahn said: “Even though I consider Cristiano Ronaldo one of the best, a transfer would not fit our philosophy. I don’t know if it would be the right thing for Bayern and the Bundesliga if we signed it now.
Julian Nagelsmann also played down any possible transfer to Bayern: “I’ve seen all the rumors about my interest in signing Cristiano Ronaldo, but it’s not true.”
It is difficult to see how this position could have changed since these comments were made.
major league soccer would represent a reasonable fit in many ways for Ronaldo, whose career aspirations beyond football could be more easily fulfilled in America than in Europe.
Inter Miami are the franchise most often linked with a possible move for him and, if they were to secure the services of Ronaldo, it would be a remarkable move for a league that also aims to lure Lionel Messi when his time runs out at Paris Saint-Germain. But, again, the compromise would have to be Ronaldo accepting that his days of impressing on the Champions League stage are over.
For a man who insisted in his interview with Morgan that he could still operate at the highest level until the age of 40, that may be something he does not want to accept.
If all other roads are closed, at what cost does Ronaldo simply decide enough is enough and end his playing career?
It would go against what he told Morgan, but the prospect of playing in a lower-tier league, only placating its accountants, may be too bleak to contemplate for a man who has spent virtually his entire career at some of the most famous clubs in world football.
He certainly has nothing left to prove and would walk out leaving his millions of fans wanting even more, which would likely appeal to his ego.
(Top photo: Getty Images)