This article examines five key things that would need to happen for Cristiano Ronaldo to return to his spiritual home and re-sign for Manchester United. The player’s recent outing to Old Trafford set the rumour mill in motion, as journalists and fans began to salivate at the prospect of Manchester’s golden son coming back to the club that made him the player he is.
Reportedly unhappy in Madrid, and hesitating on signing a new contract, the Spanish Giants may be inclined to sell at a cut-price this summer, rather than allow the player to leave for free in a couple of years.
With Sir Alex Ferguson’s inevitable departure inching ever closer, Old Trafford is due for some upheaval in the near future. This article considers some of the factors required for Ronaldo to step closer to his own destiny; a return to the Theatre of Dreams and a second stint before the adoring Red Devils faithful.
Currently under contract until 2015, it would take a mighty bid to see the hierarchy of Madrid agree to let their crown jewel depart from the Bernadeu at this point in time.
The Glazers have been accused of not being the most generous of owners since taking the controlling stake in the club back in 2005. Since then, clubs like Manchester City, Chelsea and Paris St Germain have stolen the headlines for their spending, while United have often been underwhelming in the transfer market.
However, the purchase of Robin van Persie in the summer, particularly when facing competition for his signature from City, demonstrated that when the right players become available at the right price, Sir Alex Ferguson does receive the backing to go out and recruit his star men.
Surely, if there was any scope for Ronaldo to return to Old Trafford, the Glazers would splash the cash and realise the potential benefits of the expenditure. Real would surely require the American owners to dig deep into their cavernous pockets.
As long as Jose Mourinho remains at the Bernabeu, it seems unlikely that Ronaldo will be allowed to leave. I struggle to see the Portuguese boss taking on Barcelona and the rest without his star player, and I envisage Mourinho as having sufficient cult of personality to discourage Ronaldo from seeking his fortunes elsewhere.
However, what if Mourinho were to depart, and to make Manchester his destination? Once again the whirlpool of rumour that surrounds Sir Alex Ferguson’s succession is whirring profoundly around the Premier League. Having knocked Liverpool, and now, seemingly, City, off their perches, the end might be nigh for the legendary manager.
There have been doubts as to whether Mourinho, and specifically his petulance and his ego, would be a comfortable fit for Old Trafford, but his record and his pedigree would certainly be of interest to the Glazers. What better way to reinvent United on the world stage than by recruiting both Mourinho and the returning hero Ronaldo? The pair would ensure little immediate hangover as the Ferguson era comes to a close.
Lurking in the shadows of Real Madrid is Jorge Mendes, "Super Agent" and power-broker, a man who reportedly holds an immense influence in the Bernabeu’s corridors of authority. As well as Mourinho, Mendes also counts among his clients Madrid superstars Fabio Coentrao, Angel Di Maria, Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho and, of course, Ronaldo.
It is no coincidence that all of these players find themselves in the Spanish capital, and previously, at Chelsea and Manchester United, Mendes has enjoyed collecting his clients together at one club, creating Lusophone corners to these dressing rooms.
The likes of Carvalho, Paulo Ferreira, Tiago and Maniche were central to Mourinho’s early successes at Chelsea, whilst his influence continues in Manchester, with Nani and Anderson still on the club’s books after Mendes-inspired transfers.
However, Mendes’ influence in Manchester has diminished since the Bebe fiasco and the departure of his confidante, Carlos Queiroz, in 2008. Would the club be keen to once again encourage the Super Agent into the fold, opening the doors to the baggage and the controversy that accompany him?
I suspect that while Mendes and his cabal would not be welcome back at Old Trafford, Ronaldo would be greeted with open arms were he to dissociate himself from his fellow "clients."
Whilst I can’t see the hierarchy at Real Madrid being too receptive to the departure of their finest player, a Champions League victory this season might make them more inclined to consider a sale.
No team have enjoyed a connection with the European Cup as profound as that enjoyed by Real Madrid. The club dominated the nascent competition in the late 50s, winning five consecutive finals between 1956 and 1960, and have experienced subsequent success in three different decades.
The history have given Real a profound relationship with the tournament, but it is a relationship that has not been consummated since their ninth victory, back in 2002, when a Zidane-inspired Madrid overcame Leverkusen at Hampden Park.
As long as the quest for "No. 10" continues, it would seem counterintuitive for Real to dispose of the myriad of qualities Ronaldo brings to the table; however, were the Portuguese Wonder to bring Old Big Ears back "home" to central Spain, he may receive a Golden Handshake, and the blessing to return to his own spiritual home.
Despite the wet eyes and sincere "come and get me" applause that accompanied Ronaldo’s recent return to Old Trafford, you get the impression his work in Spain has not yet come to an end. Real, currently 13 points off Barcelona in the league, are desperately in need of another power shift in Spain, while, as mentioned above, the Portuguese star is unlikely to be sold before Madrid have that 10th European Cup sitting on the plinth in the club museum.
There is one other key reason why it is not yet time for Ronaldo to leave Spain: Leo Messi.
Since finding his stride in Madrid, and taking his game to the next level, Ronaldo has constantly found himself labouring in the Argentine’s shadow. In the immortal words of Irving Berlin, it seems to be a case of "Anything you can do, I can do better" between the pair, with Messi’s achievements regularly eclipsing those of his rival.
In any other generation, we would likely be talking of Ronaldo as a multiple Ballon d’Or winner, but instead, his victory—in 2008—stands alone, as Messi has monopolised the individual honour.
For CR7 to depart would come across as an abdication of sorts, an admission of defeat, and an escape from the spectre of his nemesis. Despite indicating his future likes away from Madrid, I would be more inclined to envisage Ronaldo departing were a Messi decline to hand the Portuguese the initiative in their personal contest.
Would Ronaldo depart before he has won this individual battle and confirmed himself as King of the Hill? If Messi’s dominance continues, he may fancy an easier life West of the Channel!