Cristiano Ronaldo is reportedly set to be replaced by Robert Lewandowski at Real Madrid this summer, with Manchester United likely to renew their interest in the Portuguese as they target marquee reinforcements.
According to Spanish outlet El Confidencial (h/t Goal's Tom Maston), Ronaldo is heading for the exit door at the Santiago Bernabeu after seemingly insulting his team-mates to the press on Saturday.
James Dixon of the Manchester Evening News reported former club United will be in the hunt for top players this summer.
Ronaldo has long been linked with a return to Old Trafford, and they would be one of the few teams that could afford him if he does move on at the end of the season.
Football journalist Dermot Corrigan shared Ronaldo's comments in the wake of Real's 1-0 derby defeat to Atletico Madrid on Saturday:
Ronaldo in mixed zone "If we were all at my level, maybe we would be leaders." [via @AranchaMOBILE ]— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) February 27, 2016
More from Ronaldo "I don’t want to say that Jese, Lucas [Vazquez] or [Mateo] Kovacic are not good players, they are very good, but…”— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) February 27, 2016
La Liga writer Andrew Gaffney believed there was little room for misinterpretation as Ronaldo hardly minced his words, but he also said the 31-year-old should take more responsibility for his own performance:
It's natural the team won't be as strong without Bale, Benzema and the like but that doesn't excuse his poor performances.— Andrew Gaffney (@GaffneyVLC) February 28, 2016
As Sky Sports Statto revealed, the forward has struggled to make an impact against La Liga's better teams this season:
.@Cristiano Ronaldo in 2015-16 La Liga— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) February 27, 2016
Record v teams currently in top 5 - 0 goals (5 apps)
Record v rest of the teams - 22 goals (21 apps)
Ronaldo has still notched an incredible 34 goals in 33 matches in all competitions this term, though, as well as assisting a further 11.
He recently rolled back the years with an excellent goal against Roma in the first leg of Real's UEFA Champions League round-of-16 tie, per BT Sport Football:
As stat man MisterChip revealed, Ronaldo is continuing to deliver the goods in Europe's elite competition:
ROM 0-1 RMA (58') - Cristiano has scored in 17 out of 21 away matches in Champions League (27 in total).— MisterChip (English) (@MisterChiping) February 17, 2016
Will United be able to re-sign Ronaldo?
United have struggled up front this season, with just 33 goals scored in 26 Premier League matches.
Though their patent lack of creativity could be a concern should Ronaldo join—the forward is more reliant on his team-mates than he was in his younger days—his world-class status and continued popularity among United fans would give the entire team, and indeed the club, a significant boost that could spark them back into life.
According to Marc Williams of the Daily Star, the Red Devils are also targeting reinforcements at full-back, though perhaps more low-key in terms of profile.
Per Williams, United have scouted Hull City left-back Andrew Robertson as part of their pursuit for an alternative to Luke Shaw. The 21-year-old has impressed for the Tigers this season, scoring once and assisting four times, with Squawka detailing the youngster has created 33 chances for his team-mates and completing 35 take-ons.
Williams also reported the club are looking to recruit for the other flank and scouted Olympiakos right-back Omar Elabdellaoui. The report stated the Greek club could be willing to part with the 24-year-old for £7 million.
Elabdellaoui was on the books of local rivals Manchester City in his youth, but he never played for the club.