Cristiano Ronaldo’s 105-million-euro move to Juventus after nine glorious trophy-laden years at Real Madrid rightfully sent shockwaves around the footballing world, with most discussions now moving on to assessing the implications of the transfer.
The Portuguese superstar underlined his unyielding love to the club he grew up supporting in his farewell letter while media speculation swirls that the reason for his leaving was mostly down to the Madrid giants not reciprocating that feeling in full.
The 33-year-old came to Real Madrid when they were staring down the barrel of Barcelona’s all-conquering gun and turned them into Europe’s most dominant force in recent history by virtue of 451 goals in 438 games that yielded 16 trophies — including four Champions League titles that he nearly single-handedly won as he finished as the competition’s top scorer six times over the past six years.
Overall, he netted an incredible 105 goals in Europe’s elite competitions since donning the storied white strip of Los Blancos, with 60 coming in the knockout stages — 20 in the last 16, 23 in the quarterfinals, 13 in semifinals and 4 in finals.
Those incredible performances also saw him claim the Ballon d’Or four times, with another — which would take him past Lionel Messi’s tally of five — possibly arriving this December.
When Ronaldo left Manchester United as one of the two best players in the world, fans accepted the decision knowing of his childhood love affair with Real that made the move an eventuality.
However, having won everything there is to have won and written his name in the annals of Real Madrid history, where he is now on a pedestal equal to if not above the likes of Alfredo di Stefano, Ronaldo’s move to Juventus leaves far more questions than answers.
The foremost among them being: why did he leave?
The Madrid press believe it had little to do with issues on the field. Yes, Ronaldo started the season slowly and that may have cost Real Madrid La Liga, but he more than made up for it with his yet-again astounding performances in the Champions League.
Real president Florentino Perez’s reported refusal to honour a bumper contract agreement made last year strained their relationship, with the agreed terms having never materialised.
However, the chief reason for the move is thought to be the tax case against Ronaldo. Although he has already been handed a hefty fine and a suspended sentence, the Portuguese is said to have been more than mildly annoyed by the fact that the club had not gathered around him as Barcelona did with Messi. He had expected Perez to wield his influence to make the case go away or at least reach a quick resolution. Instead, the breaking point was reportedly reached when Spanish authorities raided Ronaldo’s boat while his son was on board.
”There are thousands of boats in Formentera and police with cameras boarded the smallest one, Cristiano Ronaldo’s one. Are we murderers or what?” the Portugal captain asked.
Career-wise, the move is certainly an interesting one. In the slower pace of Serie A, Ronaldo can prolong his career as he pushes into his mid-thirties. The system at Juventus should also serve him well and will no doubt be geared even more towards the striker than ever before.
What is of even more interest will be to see how Real Madrid fare.
They have lost a man who scored 33 percent of the club’s 1378 goals over the past last nine seasons and provided 119 assists. They have lost the man who has scored over 44 percent of their goals in the Champions League in their winning season.
There is every assurance that Perez, with 105 million and the other hundreds of millions at his disposal, will make a marquee signing or two or even three. However, the market is not in Real or Perez’s favour.
Paris Saint-Germain will be unwilling to let go of either Neymar or Kylian Mbappe if they are to be seen as a European giant, while Tottenham already inked a six-year deal local lad Harry Kane merely weeks ago.
Mohamed Salah could be tempted and Liverpool may not resist, while Eden Hazard is another possible signing. Robert Lewandowski, whose powers are on the wane, could also arrive. However, even the three of them combined may be unable to fill the giant void left behind by Ronaldo, especially in the Champions League where most teams have an embarrassment of riches.
With Juventus having shattered their wage structure to accommodate him, Ronaldo’s future is already secured and, more importantly, assured. What lies in store for the aristocracy of Madrid remains to be seen.