When Cristiano Ronaldo signed for Juventus in summer 2018 he was supposed to be the missing puzzle piece that would finally bring them Champions League glory. While Juventus had been dominant in their domestic league, Serie A, for almost a decade, that elusive European trophy had proved a bridge too far for the Old Lady since way back in 1996 – the days of Vialli and Ravanelli. Free-scoring Ronaldo seemed to be the key to changing their Euro fortunes.
Ronaldo has certainly added a serious goal threat since arriving at Juve, helping to secure league titles eight and nine in a row. However, under first Max Allegri and then Maurizio Sarri the Italians’ Champions League fortunes still floundered. In 2018/19 Juventus crashed out in the quarters against a stylish Ajax, while last season they didn’t make it past the round of 16, being dumped out by underdogs Lyon.
What started as a love affair between the fans and the former Galactico has started to turn sour of late. Ronaldo said a major part of his decision to join the Turin giants was the standing ovation he got from the Juventus fans when he scored a sensational overhead kick against them, in the Champions League, for former employers Real Madrid. While the fans may have been able to appreciate his acrobatics, they were less fond of his performance in this year’s competition, even going so far as to blame him for Juventus going out against Porto.
That infamous night against Porto is only one of the many problems for Cristiano in Turin. As well as copping criticism for being a less than robust brick in the wall, Ronaldo’s displays across the league campaign have been under increasing scrutiny, despite the fact he’s scored a very respectable 25 goals already in an otherwise dismal season for the Bianconeri.
With a rookie coach in Andrea Pirlo – for now at least – and an ageing squad, Juventus are in need of a major summer overhaul which isn’t helped by having to pay Ronaldo’s eye-watering wage bill. At 36, Cristiano doesn’t have time to hang around while they rebuild, so talk in recent weeks has been that CR7’s time at the Allianz may be coming to a close. Ronaldo himself has suggested strongly that his future lies elsewhere, even going as far as to say he feels like a prisoner in Turn.
Juventus have failed dismally to secure their 10th scudetto in a row this season, with Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan all but confirmed as champions after a consistent season built on the kind of solid displays Juventus were once known for. Worse still, it’s starting to look like Juventus might not even qualify for next season’s Champions League, with upstarts Atalanta and perennial rivals AC Milan and Napoli vying to edge them out of the top 4.
Throw in the recent Super League debacle – the fallout is still unclear for Juventus and their owner Andrea Agnelli’s deep pockets – and it might be the case that Ronaldo feels his time at Juventus has run its course, even without leading them to elusive Champions League glory.
If Ronaldo is to leave Juventus this summer, where is he going to head to? Having suggested that he likes the idea of returning to Manchester United, could we see Ronaldo back in the Premier League? It’s not as outlandish an idea as it might first seem – United need to rebuild bridges with their fans after the Super League backlash and their current veteran striker Edinson Cavani has made it clear he wants to head back to South America when this season finishes.
A quick check at the bookmakers suggest it’s not a fantasy either, with odds of around 10/3 on Ronaldo making an emotional return to Old Trafford next season. (A tip for those who get confused with American, Fractional and Decimal – don’t try and understand it, just use an odds converter.)
Manchester United aren’t the only ex Ronaldo has been keeping an eye on, however, and conflicting reports suggest he might favour a move back to Real Madrid. Real manager Zinedine Zidane has never been shy about declaring he’d love to see Cristiano back at the Bernabeu but it’s not clear if Real’s finances could stretch to re-employing him, especially if they’re still set on tempting Kylian Mbappe from PSG. The bookies are more optimistic, however, with odds of about 5/1 on Ronaldo reacquainting himself with Real.
Ronaldo’s ageing legs and fondness for the limelight might see him make an even bolder move, with David Beckham’s Inter Miami also throwing their hats into the Ronaldo ring. As tempting as the Miami night-life might be, you can get odds of about 25/1 on Ronaldo deciding his future lies in the MLS this summer.
If he’s determined to stay in Europe and vie for another Champions League with a new club, Paris Saint Germain could hold the key to him going out with a bang. They’ll certainly have the funds, especially if Mbappe or Neymar head elsewhere, and bookmakers put the chances of a year of Ronaldo in Paris at about 6/1.