The latest turn in Cristiano Ronaldo’s bizarre second spell at Manchester United has arrived, and it’s a doozy.
Man United announced on Tuesday that Ronaldo “is to leave Manchester United by mutual agreement, with immediate effect.”
The decision to part ways comes after the 37-year-old was emerging as an increasing problem for the Red Devils. He doesn’t fit into Erik ten Hag’s system — or really any modern system, since he doesn’t high-press and is no longer fast enough to lead the line for a counter-attacking team — and has not handled the situation with grace.
Among other examples, Ronaldo left the stadium early after being substituted at halftime during a preseason friendly; openly admitted that he’s keeping a detailed journal of whether he thinks a given reporter is being truthful or not; had a proposed move publicly turned down by numerous big-name clubs; did an interview with Piers Morgan that seemed specifically designed to force Man United to kick him to the curb; and left the bench before full time to storm into the locker room during his team’s game against Tottenham.
With that in mind, Man United’s press release was understandably curt.
“The club thanks him for his immense contribution across two spells at Old Trafford, scoring 145 goals in 346 appearances, and wishes him and his family well for the future,” read a club statement announcing the news. “Everyone at Manchester United remains focused on continuing the team’s progress under Erik ten Hag and working together to deliver success on the pitch.”
And that was it. One of the all-time great players in the game burned his bridges so thoroughly that a tradition-laden club like Manchester United, known to pay lavish tribute to anyone that played there for a long spell, effectively hustled Ronaldo out the door while most eyes were on the World Cup.
It’s an ugly end for player and club, but then again his entire return to Man United has been a disaster. There was no other way this was going to end.
What’s next for Ronaldo?
Ronaldo made it clear over the summer that if he were to leave Man United, he required Champions League soccer.
The problem is that most of the clubs that can both offer that and and meet Ronaldo’s salary demands have ruled themselves out. It looks like the Portugal attacker is going to have to settle for either a move to a club that can keep him in the best competition in the world, or one that can shell out his wages without going bankrupt. He’s almost certainly not going to get both.
Inter Miami has been floated as a possible landing spot, and Ronaldo being a free agent would certainly grease the wheels on a move to MLS. Over the summer, there were also reports of Ronaldo turning down an offer worth roughly €275 million to play in Saudi Arabia, which is a level of interest that indicates a suitor that could circle back now that their target is without a club.
Wherever he ends up, the team that signs him is going to have to hope that Ronaldo’s ability to score a ton of goals (which, in fairness, is still extremely sharp) will overshadow the problem of fitting him into a new locker room, his disinterest in defensive work, and all the rest of the off-field baggage that seems to come with him.