Juventus bought Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018 with the explicit goal of winning the Champions League, something the Old Lady has done just twice in its long history (they have lost seven times in the final, which stings like hell).
The signing made sense: Ronaldo was coming off the back of a golden period with Real Madrid. If anyone could get Juve over the line, it was Ronaldo. Also, it was a monster gamble on a player who was losing his edge.
The gamble failed. With Ronaldo on deck, Juve have been knocked out of the Champions League three seasons in a row, not once getting past the quarter-final stage. And they have been knocked out by clubs who their odious chairman, Andrea Agnelli, seems to rate as inferior: Lyon, Ajax and, most recently, Porto; in terms of sympathy, Agnelli has not helped Cristiano’s cause one bit.
Ronaldo has strengthened the Juventus brand, for sure, but Ronaldo doesn’t give a fig about that. The things that drive him are simple: he winning trophies, scoring goals, setting unbreakable records (and preferably eclipsing Lionel Messi in every way). In other words, he wants to be remembered as the greatest footballer who ever played. Unlike almost all players with such grand ambitions, Ronaldo actually has the talent and hunger to do it.
But it must be clear to him now that his career is stalling in its twilight. He’s not in free fall, but he needs an exit plan, a new home at a club which will offer him what Juve failed to – and in Ronaldo’s defence, Juve surrounded him with some pretty modest talent (Aaron Ramsey! Adrien Rabiot!! Alvaro Morata!!!).
This is how rumours start. And Marca has started one, almost inevitably, about Ronaldo returning to Real Madrid next season. Both parties have suffered without the other. You can see why it makes sense.
Ron would have to take a pay cut to make it happen, but surely he has enough cash to last several luxurious lifetimes. The problem is in the timing. If Real were to sign him in the next window, they would be using funds that could be potentially spent on a young world-class forward: Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland. And there is every chance that both Mbappe and Haaland will be on the market in the next 12-24 months.
Getting the band back together rarely works. What I saw during the two legs of Juve’s tie vs Porto was a Ronaldo who can only sprint in short bursts, and who offers almost nothing to his team-mates in terms of pressing / defensive work. I know he’s had a good campaign in Italy, but it’s fair to question the strength of a league where Ronaldo and 38-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic are two of the star performers.
Real would be nuts to buy him back… so, it’s probably going to happen.