Cristiano Ronaldo faces the rare prospect of being without Champions League football.
The 37-year-old will hold talks with Manchester United over his future this week, as reported Athleticism In Monday. He missed United’s pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia, citing family reasons, after telling the club he wanted to leave.
The last time Ronaldo didn’t feature in the Champions League was in the 2002-03 season, when he played for Sporting Lisbon in the UEFA Cup qualifying rounds.
Since then he has played in Europe’s top competition for 19 consecutive seasons, appearing for United, Real Madrid and Juventus, and lifting the trophy five times. However, his United failed to qualify for the 2022-23 season and will play in the Europa League instead, one of the reasons Ronaldo gave for telling them he wanted to leave.
A return of at least 18 league goals in each of the past 16 seasons suggests he should be in high demand. But any move would not be cheap. United have pledged around £60m ($72.3m, €70.7m) to sign Ronaldo in 2021 on a two-year deal when you factor in his transfer fee and his wages, which are in the region of £450,000 a week.
Apart from contributing goals, Ronaldo is also one of the sport’s biggest marketing draws. He has the most followed account on Instagram, with 469 million followers, and has more than 720 million followers in total on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
The benefits of signing one of football’s most iconic figures are obvious. Yet despite his impact on and off the pitch, and despite some interest, no club set to play in the Champions League this season seem close to signing him. United have also insisted the striker is not for sale.
Here, Athleticism explains how and why clubs have dropped out of the race to sign Ronaldo.
New Chelsea co-owner Todd Boehly met Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes in June and the striker’s future was discussed.
Athleticism later reported that Chelsea had no interest in making a move for him, even after allowing last year’s big-money signing Romelu Lukaku to leave the club on loan and join Inter Milan.
Thomas Tuchel also stressed that signing a new centre-forward this summer was not a priority. Raheem Sterling has signed a deal worth £47.5m and he is set to play a vital role in Chelsea’s new attack, while Kai Havertz looks set to continue his transition to become first-choice No.9 of the club.
Before Ronaldo joined United last year, Manchester City were close to signing him. One of the factors that persuaded Ronaldo to return to Old Trafford instead was a conversation with Rio Ferdinand about how a move to City could tarnish his United legacy.
Since then, Atletico Madrid have reportedly had an interest in Ronaldo, but given his concern about tarnishing his legacy at United, it would be reasonable to assume he might have similar thoughts about doing the same with his legacy at Real Madrid. .
As for Atletico, to sign a new player, let alone one who would demand salaries the size of Ronaldo, the club need to raise €40m from player sales. Diego Simeone was unable to sell Alvaro Morata and Saul, who contribute around €20m to the club’s wage bill, making any move for Ronaldo very difficult.
When Ronaldo told the United hierarchy he wanted to leave if a suitable offer was made for him, Bayern Munich were one of the clubs informed of his situation.
However, Bayern chief executive Oliver Kahn has played down talk of signing Ronaldo. In July, Kahn said: “Even though I consider Cristiano Ronaldo one of the best, a transfer wouldn’t fit our philosophy. I don’t know if it would be the right thing for Bayern and the Bundesliga if we signed him. now.”
Julian Nagelsmann also played down any possible move to Bayern: “I’ve seen all the rumors about my interest in signing Cristiano Ronaldo, but it’s not true.”
Napoli, who finished third in Serie A last season, have also been credited with an interest in Ronaldo, and there are a few signs that suggest they clearly need a new source of goals.
Luciano Splatetti said it would be “extremely difficult” for Napoli to finish in the top four again this season. The club need to replace two strikers, Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens, who each scored 11 league goals last season but left this summer.
However, no official offer has been registered.
According Forbes, Ronaldo is the third highest-paid athlete in the world, with the forward set to earn around $115m (£96.3m) this calendar year. Money doesn’t seem to be Ronaldo’s main motivation at this stage of his career, but a Saudi club have made an offer that would give him the opportunity to earn £233million over two years.
The striker has cited a desire to play Champions League football but has also been offered the chance to earn around £2.24million a week, just under a quarter of a billion pounds .
Outside of the teams above, the number of potential suitors for Ronaldo remains slim. Paris Saint-Germain would have no interest in moving, leaving a small handful of teams who could even afford it.
Manchester City and Liverpool will play in the Champions League next season, but having signed Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez respectively, it seems unlikely either will make a move.
When Harry Kane signed a new contract at Tottenham in 2018, it was worth around £200,000 a week, making him the club’s biggest earner. Antonio Conte’s side haven’t expressed an interest in signing Ronaldo, but even if they did, Tottenham would have to make an exception to their salary structure or Ronaldo would likely have to take a significant pay cut.
Italian clubs are spending less than before, suggesting Ronaldo’s return to Juventus, a club where he previously earned 31 million euros a year, doesn’t seem likely. AC Milan have also taken a frugal approach to star player pay after allowing Gianluigi Donnarumma, Hakan Calhanoglu and Franck Kessie to leave on free transfers, instead of paying them big salaries.
Inter Milan have re-signed Romelu Lukaku on loan. The cost of acquiring him for a year is around €25m once his loan fees and wages are factored in, so it looks like they wouldn’t budge for Ronaldo.
Barcelona have brought in Robert Lewandowski. Real Madrid, who have just lifted another Champions League trophy without Ronaldo, have shown no desire to re-sign him.
Borussia Dortmund have signed Sebastien Haller and Karim Adeyemi to replace Haaland.
That leaves Ajax and RB Leipzig as the two remaining teams heading into the Champions League who might be able to offer Ronaldo what he wants.
There is still plenty of time left in the transfer window, but as things stand it looks like Ronaldo could stay at United and play Europa League football for the first time in almost 20 years.