There will be time to analyse and assess whether it’s the right move, for Cristiano and for United, but right now, you’re left stunned by the mechanics of how it came to be.
First and foremost is the timing itself. Why did Cristiano wait this long? It’s not as if something happened in the past week that suddenly made Ronaldo want to leave Juventus. The club’s financial situation didn’t suddenly deteriorate in mid-August. Ronaldo didn’t suddenly run into Max Allegri after two years and think “Nah, I don’t really want to play for this guy.” It’s not as if Juve had promised him they’d acquire a star-studded supporting cast for him and, as a result, he wanted to jump ship: he knew full well that, other than Manuel Locatelli, there would no significant newcomers.
In fact, it feels as if this had as much to do with opportunities elsewhere as it did with a desire to leave.
There were only four viable destinations in terms of who could afford him: Real Madrid, PSG, Man City and Man United. Madrid wants Mbappe, and PSG wants to keep Mbappe. Mendes knew that although Mbappe is very good, he can’t play for two teams at once and that whoever didn’t land Mbappe might have an interest in Ronaldo. Equally, Man City, having missed out on Harry Kane, were an option.
Man United? They were there all along, and the mere fact that they hadn’t moved for him earlier when it might have made more sense, sporting-wise, didn’t mean much. Ego is a part of football and, perhaps, being able to pip a target linked to City played a part. And that’s the other remarkable part of this tale because Ronaldo isn’t the sort of player you expect to get shopped around; you expect him to be courted and seduced by clubs, you expect bidding wars for his attention. Instead, we got Mendes going door to door.