Nine years and four Ballon d’Ors later, Cristiano Ronaldo is ready to bid farewell to Real Madrid and start a new, and possibly the final major chapter of his illustrious football career. And unlike what most people, including Cristiano’s mother wanted, the move is not to Old Trafford but to Italian football and the winners of the past seven league titles, Juventus.
Ronaldo leaves Los Blancos with a record which might prove unbreakable for a very long time: 451 goals in 438 games, including 120 at the Champions League. He won two La Liga and Copa del Rey crowns, three club world cups, and the crowning achievement: four Champions League titles. The move is reportedly worth €105 million, lasting four years, and will see him earn a €30 million Euro annual salary. That won’t include the tax (equal to the transfer cost of €105M) charges plus agent fees, all of which take the total of the transaction to €340 million.
Ronaldo’s absence will also mean Real Madrid are now looking to make a top tier signing capable of matching his scintillating output of more than 1 goal per game. Will it be Neymar, Mbappe, Hazard or someone else? That remains to be seen. For fans, El Classico in the future may not have the bite as it did when both Ronaldo and Barcelona’s little angel were flying down the flanks on opposing halves, a clash that has been a talking point of El Clasico for years.
For the past several seasons, the hints of discord and Ronaldo potentially moving on had been rising. It felt much different this May, however, when he said it had been a good time at the Santiago Bernabeu after winning a third-straight Champions League title with Real Madrid. As it turned out, the nostalgic moment had substance and here we are, more than two months later.
Juventus may not be too bad after all
Juventus does seem to be a good fit for Ronaldo, at least on paper. They are strong favorites for the Serie A title every year and players seem to age slowly in the Italian league, performing well into their 30s. With Ronaldo’s legendary obsession with fitness, he could play for a few more years easily.
But while Juventus has won seven successive domestic league titles, success in Europe has historically eluded them, going back to the 1995-96 season when they overcame Ajax. Since then, they have reached five finals, the last of them against Real Madrid in 2016-17, losing out on all of them.
And that’s where Ronaldo would love to step in. The biggest stage in Europe is where he historically has produced his most memorable moments, including that stupefying bicycle kick at that Turin night, Being the highest goal-scorer in the tournament’s history, winner of five titles, featuring on team of the season each of the previous five seasons, and so on – a return to glory for the Italian powerhouse could be the perfect note for him to sign-off on his illustrious career.
It’s also a huge scalp for Serie A, Italy’s top-tier football division. Recently, with a flailing economy, the salary purse for Italian players across the board has shortened, causing the outflux of talent to more valuable clubs in Spain, England, Germany and France. Attendances, too, are smaller than either Bundesliga, Premier League or La Liga. With the signing of the world’s most-renowned player, the league could finally get the relevance it has lacked.
If all of this sounds like a eulogy, it really shouldn’t. For a player who trains as hard as Ronaldo, it’ll only be natural for him to know when to stop before any of us. If the present World Cup is an indication, it is clear he still has it in him to carry the weight of a team forward, albeit one which is indeed deserving of that.