Manchester City are one of the clubs to have made contact with Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes, with some reports suggesting personal terms have already been agreed.
It raises the previously unlikely possibility that the five-time Ballon d’Or winner could play for the city rivals of Manchester United, the English club for whom he starred under Sir Alex Ferguson between 2003 and 2009, and for Pep Guardiola, a manager synonymous with his great rival Lionel Messi.
So why is this suddenly gathering pace – and will he fit in at Manchester City if the deal does happen before Tuesday’s transfer deadline? BBC Radio 5 Live’s team of European experts – Raphael Honigstein, Julien Laurens and Kristof Terreur – have been discussing these questions and more.
Why do Juventus want to get rid of Ronaldo?
Ronaldo, 36, is known to be frustrated at how his move to Juventus has turned out. The Italian giants have not made it past the quarter-finals of the Champions League since his arrival in Turin and the Serie A club have been beaten in the last 16 in the past two campaigns. Last season, they lost their league title after winning it for nine years in a row and only scraped into the Champions League places in the last couple of games. Ronaldo was left out of Massimiliano Allegri’s starting XI as Juventus drew their Serie A opener against Udinese – something the club insisted was a joint decision with the player.
Honigstein: “Juventus are really trying to offload Ronaldo and there is even talk of him maybe going for free because they are so desperate to get him off the wage bill and because of how little in their mind he is contributing – not enough.
“I asked [Italian football writer] James Horncastle earlier if Juventus are stronger with or without Ronaldo in the Champions League and he had no hesitation in saying ‘without Ronaldo’. That’s what Juventus think of him at the moment and not just for financial reasons. It’s really interesting that City and Guardiola think that he is somehow going to be the missing piece that stands between them and the Champions League when it didn’t work out at Juventus that way.”
Laurens: “If you are Juventus and you know City want him and you know that City have been sat on £150m that was ready for Harry Kane, Juventus need that money to come in so they don’t make a loss on the whole Cristiano Ronaldo time at the club. I think this one will get sorted pretty quickly. I think this one will happen.”
Guardiola has often favoured playing without a central striker. When he arrived at City, he insisted on an increased workrate from Sergio Aguero to help press opponents from the front. This is not something Ronaldo has tended to offer in recent seasons.
Laurens: “The question is fair – is Ronaldo really compatible with Pep’s football, with Pep’s philosophy? I think we all agree it’s more a ‘no’ than a ‘yes’. But you know he’s going to score a lot of goals because they are going to create so many chances for him, even if he doesn’t do all of the pressing and all the counter-pressing and movement that Pep asks of him.
“We know Pep is going to leave at the end of his contract in two years’ time so it’s a short-term option anyway. Maybe if you go down that route then you also make it work for Cristiano in the short term and maybe it’s Pep who is also going to adapt a little bit to having Cristiano in his team, as much as Cristiano adapting his own game to what Pep wants.”
Honigstein: “He doesn’t strike you as a Pep player. He doesn’t strike you as someone who wants to play in a collective system. It’s a strange one, but really exciting for all of us to see how it’s going to play out.
“For a team that effectively walked the Premier League, for a team that was one dodgy line-up away from winning the Champions League, Guardiola somehow persuades himself that he needs Jack Grealish and Harry Kane to complete the puzzle. That seems counter-intuitive and now to go for Cristiano Ronaldo seems even more counter-intuitive. I just couldn’t contemplate that City would go for him, and now here we are on the verge of this move happening.”
Terreur: “It’s strange and it seems like a panic move. I never get clubs signing a plan B who doesn’t suit what they were looking for. I don’t understand that, but of course it will boost the commercial phase and he will score a lot of goals. But it’s not really long-term thinking and that was something City looked pretty good at in the past.”
Would signing Ronaldo affect any Man City Haaland bid?
Honigstein: “I don’t think signing Ronaldo would stop City pursuing Haaland, but it might stop Haaland saying ‘City is a good option for me’.
“Remember he moved to Dortmund not because they paid a lot more money or were more glamourous than some of the clubs that were interested, but because they were the one club who said they had a vacancy in the number nine spot.
“They could guarantee him being that focal point. If Ronaldo is there it will be a little bit more difficult for Pep and City to make that point persuasively.”
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