The Portugal international is yet again being linked with a return to Old Trafford as doubts continue to grow over his future at Juventus
Hidden among last week’s Super League hullabaloo, there was a transfer story that, on any other normal week, would have come close to breaking the internet itself.
Cristiano Ronaldo potentially re-signing for Manchester United.
It is not, though like we haven't been here before.
Every time it emerges that Ronaldo is unhappy or potentially angling for a move, the ‘dream’ Old Trafford reunion is reported somewhere.
Back in 2018, Jose Mourinho was asked about the possibility of the Portugal international returning to United, only for the coach to insist that a was “never on the table."
In all likelihood the same would be true this summer, despite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer having listed his former team-mate as a potential dream signings back in March.
So where has it come from this time?
Well, Ronaldo is understood to be unhappy at Juventus for a number of reasons.
He was singled out in the media as being to blame for their Champions League last-16 exit against Porto, and there is a real possibility that the Bianconeri will not even be in the competition next season.
Juve currently sit fourth in the Serie A table, level on points with fifth-placed AC Milan, who they still have to face on May 9. A game against champions-elect Inter is also on their schedule in the closing month of the campaign, meaning the potential to drop even more points is very real.
Despite still being in supreme physical condition, at 36, Ronaldo is running out of time if he wants to lift the European Cup for the sixth time in his career.
His contract in Turin expires in the summer of 2022, and it is believed that if Juventus fail to qualify for next season’s Champions League, they will have to look at potentially cutting Ronaldo from their wage bill.
He is understood to currently be earning €30 million (£26m/$34m) a year, meaning he is by some distance the best paid player in Serie A.
Which is where United come in.
The Red Devils are one of only a handful of clubs who could actually afford Ronaldo, despite their finances being heavily impacted by the pandemic.
United's last financial accounts showed their wage bill for their near 1,000 employees stands at £284m ($396m) a year, compared to the £332m ($463m) a year they were paying 12 months earlier.
That 10 per cent decrease suggests that the funds are there for United to use. It is, however, not that simple.
“Can United afford him? Yes they can,” football finance expert Kieran Maguire told Goal . “Their wage bill did take quite a negative hit in 2020, so there is scope to pay more out in wages.
"Also, from a PR point of view, the Glazers will be desperate to pull a rabbit out of a hat, and that could be in the shape of Ronaldo. So those could be the positives.
“They do have money to do it, while they also have an overdraft facility they can dip into They are almost certain to qualify for the Champions League too, so that’s money they can almost guarantee next season.
“But the issue would be his wage demands. If he wants to earn the same amount net that he’s currently on in Italy, it wouldn’t be 30 million.
"He would have to be earning a lot more, because the Italian tax system is very beneficial where they allow footballers to pay a fixed fee and keep a lot of money offshore.”
Even if Ronaldo was to take a wage cut to facilitate a move, which some are suggesting he would be prepared to do, there are doubts over whether he would even want to return to Manchester.
The five-time Ballon d'Or winner is a cult hero at Old Trafford, and he has concerns that if things did not go as well second time around, his reputation with the supporters - who he still holds in high regard - would be tarnished.
Under Solskjaer, meanwhile, United have altered their transfer strategy to focus mainly on young players, with only cheaper veterans like Edinson Cavani considered as they aim to stabilise their wage structure following Alexis Sanchez's departure.
Even if Ronaldo was to take a €10m cut, for example, he would still pocket more than the club’s highest earner, David de Gea.
So, while United are one of the few clubs that could logistically afford Ronaldo, whether they would want to shell out those figures on a 36-year-old is another matter. Realistically, their priorities lie elsewhere.
Ronaldo will forever have a place in United’s history books but the chances of him writing a new chapter are slim at best.
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