Of the last thirteen Golden Balls awarded by France Football, ie FIFA, twelve of them were split between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Argentine won seven times, the Portuguese five times. He finished second six times, third once. This clearly shows which two giants the entire world of football has bowed to in recent years.
But you can’t stop time. On October 17th, the trophy for the previous season will definitely not be accepted by the 35-year-old Messi, who for the first time since 2005 did not even make it into the 30 nominees. And with all due respect, it doesn’t look like another success for 37-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo.
Furthermore, his goalscoing records from last season, namely 18 goals in the Premier League and 6 in the Champions League, are certainly not bad. But it didn’t lead to anything. Sixth place in the English league and a completely disorganized team, barely competitive at the end of the season. This is what Manchester United’s main “success” report looks like in the 2021/2022 season.
It is clear that the idea of bringing Cristiano Ronaldo back to Old Trafford after so many years is not one of the happiest.
In 2009, he left for Real Madrid for a record 94 million euros. He has collected many trophies at the San Bernabeu, the attractiveness of the league is based on rivalry and the constant comparison of CR7 with Lionel Messi, the icon of Barcelona.
As their goals added to the historical statistics, so did their egos and demands for more lucrative contracts. While Florentino Perez cut short this development in time to sell Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus for €116 million four years ago, Barcelona were stunned by Messi’s astronomical ongoing contract. And with the failed one-hundred-million transfers, it was dragged into economic hell with a debt of 1.35 billion euros.
The era of the famous but selfish dinosaurs is ending
The ‘we’re not here to defend’ style of Messi, Suárez and co collided with a more modern, team-based footballing doctrine from Bayern Munich in a Champions League clash in August 2020. The rivalry ended in victory for the German club 8:2.
Meanwhile, Juventus Turin are also convinced that the era of the dinosaurs at the highest level of football is over, having signed Cristiano Ronaldo with the belief that after two recent defeats, CR7 will be the last piece that Juve have put together in the past years in the puzzle en route to Champions League success.
But that didn’t happen. Quarterfinals, Round of 16, Round of 16. Juventus didn’t make it to the Champions League with Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Ronaldo is a champion who guarantees you 30 to 35 goals per season. Such a player increases your chances of winning, but also brings with him something that destroys the unity of the cabin. In any case, I see his contribution is still more positive than negative,” his exclusive guest Pavel Nedvěd, vice president of Juventus, maintained politeness on the Water Bearers podcast.
He also highlighted the Portuguese’s contribution to increasing the club’s attractiveness in terms of global fan interest or sales of jerseys with the number 7.
However, last summer Cristiano Ronaldo returned to Old Trafford after years away. He is worth only 15 million euros, but this is still a record value in his age category.
He delighted United fans with a total of 24 goals last season, but coach Ralf Rangnick was unhappy with the disparity of the team, where – in other words – everyone did what they wanted. Not only Ronaldo, but also Paul Pogba and others.
Rangnick left, new coach Erik ten Hag arrived from Ajax Amsterdam. He rebuilt the squad and continued Rangnick’s quest to build a team at Old Trafford that would return to Europe’s top flight. However, it is now dominated by units where talented individuals put their full potential into teamwork and the coach’s tactical plans.
Kevin de Bruyne at Manchester City, Mohamed Salah at Liverpool do it, for example… and we can go on. Today’s hottest soccer stars have “upgraded” to this team model. They participate in the press, the synergy of the transfer phase, they return to the defense, they follow the coach’s instructions to the letter.
In comparison, Cristiano Ronaldo is simply “old school” and no one will remake him. At the age of 37, he is in great physical condition, but no one can expect dozens of sprints per match from him.
Expert: The problem is not only in defense
His greatest strength lies, of course, in the standard ending. His efficiency in converting chances is very good. But football is not only about scoring goals, even if it seems so to many at first glance.
“It’s not just a question of not defending well. Ronaldo does not move well in matches. United got the ball, but he was in an unusable position at that moment,” Jakub Dobiáš, an expert in football data analysis from the company 11Hacks, pointed to the Portuguese’s shortcomings.
At other times, the savior syndrome ignites Ronaldo and he goes deep down the field for the ball, with the idea that he is likely to advance it like Diego Maradona half a century ago.
But the coaches definitely don’t like him. He knew it was not his duty. When he starts this escapade, he can’t finish the tip, which is his job. Tactically, CR7 is clearly very difficult to coach with his ego.
“And he also has a lot of turnovers. He constantly forces himself to finish, even from unprepared positions,” Jakub Dobiáš noticed not only in the data outputs. When the rebound is won by the opponent, of course he can threaten a quick counter-attack “In his entire career, Ronaldo scored only 10 percent of his goals from positions outside the box, his strength was inside the box (penalty area),” added Dobiáš.
And he continued with another thought: “Moreover, United and Ronaldo are readable for opponents. When CR7 is on the pitch, everyone looks for Ronaldo with their passes because he is a star and a personality. It’s easier for the enemy to defend it.”
Ronaldo’s arrival at Old Trafford has obviously weakened Bruno Fernandes or Marcus Rashford.
The reunion between CR7 and Manchester United will not go as smoothly on the pitch as both sides thought last year.
Ever since he arrived in Manchester, Erik the Hag has always reiterated how important Cristiano is to him and that he relies on him in his plans. However, in the real world he is now benched.
Even Cristiano Ronaldo seems to feel that this is not it. His agent Jorge Mendez completed a tour of big European clubs last summer. And he is looking for options for the resettlement of the Portuguese. But he failed.
In the media, the whole thing was presented in the style that although CR7 likes Manchester, he wants to play in the Champions League at any cost and improve his famous record of 183 games / 140 goals here.
Thanks, but we don’t want to
The story of which Champions League participant will fulfill Ronaldo’s dreams has been a prominent media agenda for the entire continent throughout the summer.
But gradually heard from all sides: No.
“Such a transfer does not fit our philosophy,” said Oliver Kahn, once a great goalkeeper, now one of the main bosses of Bayern Munich, politely.
“Ronaldo? again? At the age of 38?” Florentino Pérez, the president of Real Madrid, has cleared up what fans think about the 37-year-old striker and has deliberately exaggerated Ronaldo’s age.
“I don’t know who made this story about Cristiano, but it was almost impossible for him to come here,” said Enrique Cerezo, the head of Atlético Madrid.
And many others spoke to the same effect. It seems that Ronaldo’s journey to his roots will be completed with a return to Sporting Lisbon, where he came from on his first mission at United years ago.
According to some British media, coach Rúben Amorim should have threatened the management that if he brought Ronaldo, he would immediately resign. Amorim denied these rumors at the press conference, however, CR7 did not make it home.
He remained in a substitute role at Old Trafford. Why?
The equation that took into account Ronaldo’s request for a high level of sport and the ambition of his possible new club, as well as United’s request for severance pay and Ronaldo’s salary expectations, did not find of its solution. And importantly: in addition to Ronaldo’s undeniable strength, there are also clear limitations revealed by the current relationship at Old Trafford.
A club that would bet “all-in” on Ronaldo and submit everything to him in terms of economy and sport was clearly not found.
Except for the offers from Saudi Arabia, which Ronaldo did not accept.
The transfer window leading up to Europe’s major leagues closed on Thursday, with the squad lists for the UEFA Cup competitions announced today.
Will CR7 take on a new role?
Cristiano Ronaldo was sitting on the Manchester United bench in Leicester on Thursday night, by the way, near the young Czech substitute goalkeeper Matěj Kovář. Unlike him, Ronaldo entered the game as a substitute in the 68th minute.
It’s not written anywhere that he won’t be in the starting line-up against Arsenal on Sunday and he won’t be able to score a hat-trick against the reigning table leaders. It is undoubtedly within his abilities. But the days when he was the main hero in every competition he entered, and all the teams he played for hung up on him, are clearly gone.
It is up to him if and how he accepts his new role. At least until January, when the transfer window opens again, he has nothing else.