Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo is reportedly on a long list of players set to be axed by club president Florentino Perez in 2016, as he plans to rebuild the squad with an eye on the future.
Pipi Estrada of El Chiringuito (h/t Sport's Alejandro Alcazar) believes manager Rafa Benitez may be the first to go, possibly during the January transfer window. Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos, Isco, Jese Rodriguez, Keylor Navas, Denis Cheryshev, Alvaro Arbeloa and even Sergio Ramos could join him this winter or at the end of the season.
The claim is certainly a bold one, as Ronaldo and Benzema in particular are core players of the current Real squad. The Portugal international has been the face of Los Blancos for years, and he's still by far their most productive forward, via World Soccer Talk:
Europe's top five highest scorers of 2015: • Ronaldo - 57 • Messi - 52 • Lewandowski 49 • Suarez - 48 • Aubameyang // Ibrahimovic - 46— World Soccer Talk (@worldsoccertalk) December 31, 2015
But for all of his individual brilliance, Real have found consistent success hard to come by in the last couple of years. The 30-year-old has won just one Champions League title and one La Liga trophy during his time in Spain, and the club didn't win a single trophy in 2015.
Barcelona have emerged as the dominant force in Spanish football, and they once again finished the year at the top of the standings. It's not a stretch to believe Perez may think it's time to make some major changes, even if the suggested exodus is rather drastic.
Will Ronaldo leave Real Madrid in 2016?
Estrada believes the club would be happy with a €60 million (£44.2 million) transfer fee for Ronaldo, who turns 31 in February and should start to decline in the coming years.
He's been linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain, who have the financial might to pay such a lofty fee and present the current Ballon d'Or holder with a massive wage packet, per John Cross of the Daily Mirror.
Ronaldo himself fuelled the rumours of a move to the French capital earlier this season, when he was spotted whispering something to PSG manager Laurent Blanc, per Sport's Alejandro Alcazar.
The Madrid-based media didn't take kindly to the public show of affection, evidenced by this cover from Marca (h/t football blogger Jonas Giaever):
"WHAT IS CRISTIANO PLAYING AT?" - Marca tomorrow are not happy about Ronaldo's PSG flirt pic.twitter.com/4gCyComIRJ— Jonas Giæver (@CheGiaevara) November 7, 2015
Ronaldo is seemingly always linked with a move away from the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, however, and so far, the rumours have not resulted in an actual transfer.
Duncan Wright of the Daily Star claimed he was on the verge of rejoining Manchester United in 2013, for example, so fans shouldn't start preparing for an exit just yet.