A Cristiano Ronaldo-less Champions League
If Cristiano Ronaldo stays with Manchester United (against his wishes), this will be the first time in two decades that he will miss a Champions League.
As we get excited about the Champions League Draw today, one big name is left out of the pots, and that’s Manchester United. AKA Cristiano Ronaldo’s team. Of course, we know that Ronaldo is not happy about being a part of a team that did not qualify for the tournament. Back in July, he requested a transfer and made it clear he would like to play for a Champions League team at any cost.
Just one problem - no one seems to want him. The only real buzz about a team showing interest happened earlier this month when the team from his teenage years, Sporting Clube de Portugal, offered to take him on a free transfer. At 37 years old, Ronaldo is still the top goal scorer, but his attitude, ego, and high price seem to be costing him interest from big-name clubs.
Though United have held firm that they are not willing to sell Ronaldo, new manager Erik ten Hag did bench him on Monday’s big game against Liverpool, which they won 2-1. Indeed, they seem to be playing even better without Ronaldo on the field. Or at least they did on Monday.
Ronaldo to miss Champions League for first time in decades
Ronaldo made his Champions League debut in the 2002-03 season and has not missed one since then, until now. He holds the record for most goals in the history of the UCL with 140 total. That’s 15 more than his rival, Leonel Messi. He also leads in UCL assists (since OPTA began recording them in 2003-04) with 40 total - five more than Messi. His 183 UCL games are the most of any other player, as are his 115 victories.
Ronaldo thrived in the Champions League, but it looks like those days may be over for him, at least for now. Several Champions League clubs have publicly stated they do not want Ronaldo. Bayern Munich CEO Oliver Kahn said Ronaldo “wouldn’t be a fit with our philosophy”. Borussia Dortmund’s CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said it was a “charming idea”, but that there had been no contact between them. Atletico Madrid’s fans were adamantly against the idea when rumors came out about a possible trade. They held up a huge banner that read “CR7 NOT WELCOME”. Atleti president Enrique Cerezo reassured the public that the rumors were just that. “I don’t know who invented the Cristiano story,” said Cerezo. “But I’ll tell you that it’s practically impossible that he comes to Atletico de Madrid.”
Ronaldo with United
If this unhappy union is to continue, surely ten Hag will be calling upon Ronaldo to help at some point. For Monday’s game against Liverpool, he said that Ronaldo just didn’t fit the “way of playing” and “style and game plan” they were going for. On Saturday, United will take on Southampton, and ten Hag has said things could be different at that point. What that sounds like is that United will use Ronaldo when they need a last-minute goalscorer, but that they don’t intend to use him as a key player on the team. Ronaldo surely does not love that, but at the moment, no better options have come up for the superstar. So, we could be looking at our first Ronaldo-less Champions League in 20 years.
Champions League Group Stage draw
The draw for the Group Stage of the Champions League was completed on Thursday evening in Istanbul, with the following Groups being drawn.
Champions League Groups:
Group A: Ajax, Liverpool, Napoli, Rangers
Group B: Porto, At. Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Brugge
Group C: Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Inter, Viktoria Plzen
Group D: Eintracht Frankfurt, Spurs, Sporting CP, Marseille
Group E: Milan, Chelsea, Salzburg, Dinamo Zagreb
Group F: Real Madrid, RB Leipzig, Shakhtar, Celtic
Group G: Man City, Sevilla, Dortmund, Copenhagen
Group H: PSG, Juventus, Benfica, Maccabi Hafia