As often as it had been rumoured, few believed Cristiano Ronaldo would actually leave Real Madrid in the summer of 2018. Most thought the Portuguese forward was merely agitating for a new contract when towards the end of the 2017/18 season he started hinting that an exit from the Santiago Bernabeu could be in the offing.
Ronaldo wasn’t bluffing, though, and left the Spanish capital to sign for Juventus in what was, at the time, one of the most unexpected transfers of recent times. It appeared to be a good fit. Juve wanted a superstar who could help deliver them the Champions League and Ronaldo was a five-time winner of European club football’s biggest prize.
In Turin, though, Ronaldo’s levels have slipped. He is still a hardened goalscorer, scoring 44 goals over the last two seasons, but he feels somewhat peripheral at Juventus. At Real Madrid, he had an entire team built around him. They played to his every strength. He doesn’t have that luxury in Italy and it has manifested itself in a lot of detached performances.
This has led to some recent speculation that Ronaldo could end up back at Real Madrid. Juventus have been badly hit by the financial knock-on of the global coronavirus pandemic and might now have to rid their books of Ronaldo’s astronomical salary. And if Ronaldo is made to leave Italy the Santiago Bernabeu might be the best place for him.
The argument could be made that Los Blancos have moved on without the 35-year-old. Real Madrid are in good shape for the title at the top of La Liga, with Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard forging a partnership that has filled the void that was left by Ronaldo at the club. Zinedine Zidane has, finally, taken them forward.
And yet there remains a sense that Ronaldo was meant to stay at Real Madrid. It is the club of his greatest legacy, the club where he achieved the most. The more that passes, it becomes clearer that the Portuguese’s move to Juventus was an ill-judged mistake, even if he is to lift a second successive Scudetto this season. There could still be scope for him to correct that mistake, though. There might still be a place for him at the Santiago Bernabeu, both in Zidane’s team and in the hearts of the club’s fans.
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