Breaking Down Cristiano Ronaldo's Rumoured Move to MLS
Cristiano Ronaldo is the most famous footballer in the world. He has the looks of a movie star, a bank balance beyond his wildest dreams, and he is adored by millions around the globe.
So how realistic is a move to Major League Soccer?
And over the past two years, as the league has grown and the audience has increased, the gossip has continued.
The prospect of seeing Ronaldo on American soil is an exciting one, and we could yet see a Hollywood ending to his glittering career.
I have been looking into how his American dream may take shape, after being tipped off by a host of my contacts that there is a high chance Ronaldo will head to MLS before hanging up his boots.
The Current Situation
It should be unthinkable that Ronaldo will leave Madrid any time soon, but even the man himself is not so sure.
"Nothing is impossible," was his reply to a Deportes Cuatro journalist when asked about his club future last week (h/t the Daily Mirror).
He has been linked with Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain, but almost immediately on the back of that response, Spanish outlet AS reported a Chinese Super League club are considering an offer to sign Ronaldo. They say he would earn £105 million a year, more than any athlete in the world.
Sources I have spoken to are convinced he would not be tempted to play in China—no matter how much is on offer. Interestingly, though, most do not believe Madrid will be his final club.
Ronaldo has just won the Champions League and La Liga, and he is the holder of the Ballon d'Or. And on the international stage, he won the 2016 European Championship with Portugal.
He is not going to join any club for money alone.
A Change of Mindset
Ronaldo is aware of the progress being made in MLS.
In past years, he has been slightly dismissive at the prospect of playing in America, but in more recent times he has become far more open to the idea. He knows the setting would suit him, but now he is beginning to believe the level of football could be enjoyable too.
Last year, CNN Sport took a detailed look into the possibility of Ronaldo or Lionel Messi heading across the Atlantic Ocean, and Frank Lampard, formerly of New York City FC, said: "Cristiano, particularly, I could see playing in America. I think the lifestyle would suit him. He's a showman and a great player."
It almost seems an open secret among the connected names that Ronaldo will arrive at some stage.
Matching His Mentality
Ronaldo has to win trophies wherever he plays. It's as simple as that.
So if he does move to America, L.A. Galaxy will emerge as one of the options. They have history to offer as the standout team, with five MLS Cup wins to their name.
Per the Guardian, the Galaxy have been linked with a move for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, perhaps proof that more big-name signings cannot be dismissed going forward.
Los Angeles Times sports writer Kevin Baxter told me: "Galaxy has the prestige. They are the most successful team out here.
"They have changed their approach recently and we have seen younger guys breaking out, but they will always be in the market if the right type of guy becomes available."
California-based sports writer Martin Rogers of USA Today explained how Ronaldo would be welcomed in the City of Stars.
He said: "I think the chances of him coming to L.A. are high. The people would love him over here, because of his looks and personality—plus the fact he has been among the best in the business for a long time."
A New L.A. Franchise to Consider
In April 2018, the soccer landscape will change in America as new franchise Los Angeles FC join the party.
Their ambition is huge and their celebrity appeal is already clear. Actor Will Ferrell is on the list of owners, along with L.A. Lakers legend Magic Johnson and 25 other influential faces from the world of sport, entertainment and business.
People I spoke to around L.A. believe the new club will look to make a statement, perhaps similar to the one Galaxy made with David Beckham 10 years ago.
"Beckham has absolutely had a lasting impact," Scott French of FourFourTwo told me. "He made the rest of the world pay attention to MLS and made it possible for some of the great players who followed—from Robbie Keane and Didier Drogba to David Villa and Kaka—and the rise in standard that produced. He is unquestionably the face of this advance."
"We have to be aware that L.A. FC has a lot of money and also Hollywood connections through Mandalay entertainment," Baxter told me. "They could probably offer him a $12 million contract and then bump it up with promises of personal work in their film studios. That could be something of interest to him.
"L.A. is the No. 2 media market out here and the new franchise will be going up against Galaxy, the most successful franchise. This is a star town and that's how it runs, so they'll need a big, big signing."
Jerry Jimenez from the Heart of LAFC podcast said: "I believe they will be looking for big signings that you don't have to explain. They will just make sense. I also believe the players will have a good story attached to them."
L.A. FC hope to name a coach in the next couple of months, and that's when we will get a better signal of their intentions. The likelihood is that Bayer Leverkusen forward Chicharito will be top of their list—but expect Ronaldo on the radar further down the road.
The Lure of Beckham in Miami
This element should not be underestimated. David Beckham has spent the past four years trying to bring Miami an expansion MLS franchise, and he is edging closer to his goal.
It looks like Beckham's team will be ready for 2020, at which point Ronaldo will be 35 and entering his twilight years.
MLS has moved beyond being regarded a retirement league, but it's fair to assume Ronaldo will still be in pretty good condition in three years' time.
"I do think Ronaldo has a desire to come to MLS and I actually think Miami is his kind of town," Kevin Baxter said. "Beckham could also sell him on the marketing side of things and how it would work out for him here."
It would be a stunning marketing strategy if the two former Manchester United No. 7s joined forces—and the lifestyle would suit Ronaldo to a tee.
One contact told me how Ronaldo loves Miami above any other major city in the world. He also believed the Portugal international's son would fit in with the way of life.
Scott French said: "I think that given his profile, he'd fit best in a major global market. That's New York or L.A. but also Miami, which is the capital of the Latino-Caribbean world."
Will He End Up in MLS?
Beckham became a U.S. icon and Ronaldo would too.
The four-time Ballon d'Or winner has over 275 million social media followers as well as his own CR7 fashion range and four branded hotels.
He has ambition to grow and improve those assets, and a move to America would boost his profile even further.
Almost every contact I spoke to believes there is a high chance Ronaldo will head to MLS before hanging up his boots.
And after next year's World Cup in Russia, we should get a better idea about how Ronaldo views his future.
Both Los Angeles and Miami are potential destinations, but with Beckham's pull and the timing of the team's arrival, his new franchise could emerge as top MLS candidates to sign him.