I remember writing back in the day, 13 years ago, that it seemed like a good time for Madrid to sign Cristiano Ronaldo. He had an impressive nine years with a return of 450 goals. In his final season he was no longer able to reach the benchmark of 50 (or more) goals from other years, although he did notch up 43 in 43 games. Either way, his decline could be seen and a player like him, so unique, so impossible to fit into any system that is not built around him, can make up for it by scoring incessantly. But when his numbers are reduced to those of a simple good scorer, problems arise. He doesn’t press and the coach has to find ways to compensate for that deficit in the overall team’s play.
Now he wants to leave Manchester United - who signed him for ‘two years plus an additional one’ - because he has not qualified for the Champions League. It comes across as a selfish approach to me. You may remember that the season before, without him, United did qualify, they finished second. He has only contributed 24 goals, so he has been part of the problem. Just as at Juventus, who brought him in to win the Champions League, he did not live up to expectations, except for that hat-trick against Atlético. With him leading the line, Juve fell at the quarter-finals one year and in the second round in another. And they even failed to win the league of the third year, after nine in a row. His ending there wasn’t good, he chose to go to United, and after a year we are now here.
Time waits for no man, even Ronaldo
It’s a shame to see him like this, like a fake coin, offering himself to the likes of Barça and Atlético while pretending to be in the limelight of his career, hoping some unwary club bites. A Champions League project, a winning project, he requests. But at some point he will have to remember that in his good days the project was him, that he was what was important and that justified the flattery, the deferential respect and the wage packet (he still earns over 30 million net). But time waits for no one, and it doesn’t matter how exemplary he has taken care of himself, 37 is not the same as 27 for a man who relied, more than on his play, on his physical prowess. Every player finds it hard to resign himself to decadence but, sooner or later, it comes.