A host of media reports across Spain and Italy suggest it is increasingly likely that Cristiano Ronaldo will leave Juventus this summer to Real Madrid. Such a move would shock European football, end a remarkable era and represent a huge loss to the reining European champions.
An exit for the Portuguese superstar has been suggested almost every summer of the past six years but it has never appeared more likely than now. The relationship between the 33-year-old and the club’s board is said to have become increasingly strained and is now beyond repair.
“It was nice to be at Madrid,” said the Portuguese star standing pitch-side at the Olympic Stadium, Kiev. “In a few days, I will give a response to the fans, because they have always been at my side.”
Speaking in the past tense, it was a clear hint that Cristiano Ronaldo considered his future to lie away from the European champions, who had won their third consecutive title moments earlier. But what is driving the Portuguese star’s ambition to leave? The reasons for Ronaldo’s frustration at the Bernabeu are varied.
For the past twelve months, the former Manchester United star has been attending hearings and giving evidence hoping to avoid a criminal trial for tax evasion. The case relates to an alleged failure to pay image rights in Spain between 2011 and 2014. He believes he has not been adequately supported by the club throughout this case, for which he may end up paying as much as €28m – more than half of which are in legal fines.
This is one strand of the forward’s increasingly strained relationship with club president Florentino Perez. “Now is not the time for individual issues; the club is more important than anyone,” the president said as his side paraded yet another Champions League title last month, referencing Ronaldo. “The same thing is heard every summer and then nothing happens.” Developments in the five weeks since suggest otherwise.
The deal which took Ronaldo to the Spanish capital was concluded before Perez’s arrival and the two have never enjoyed a cosy relationship. The Portuguese star believes his pay being significantly less than both Lionel Messi and Neymar is deeply undervaluing him, and he is not impressed by Madrid’s continuous courtship of the latter.
Ronaldo has netted a phenomenal with 450 goals in 438 appearances for Madrid, smashing all sorts of records along the way. Reports suggest he will put pen to paper on a four-year contract with Juventus with a transfer fee in the region of €100m. Considering some fees in the modern market, that appears to represent excellent value despite his advancing years.
Perhaps the Madeira-native can now refocus on winning his sixth Champions League title at a third club, and a league title in a third different nation. Regardless of where he plays next season, he is sure to be free-scoring once more and will look to redefine himself as the world’s greatest sportsman.
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