Cristiano Ronaldo has reiterated that he wants to leave Manchester United in meetings at the club’s Carrington training base, but executives insist he is not for sale.
Following discussions, it is believed that a primary objective for Ronaldo looking to leave is to spend the 2022-23 season with a Champions League club so that he can strengthen his scoring record in the competition. He is currently leading the way with 140 goals – 15 ahead of Lionel Messi, who is two years younger. United are in the Europa League this season.
Ronaldo is also three goals behind Messi in Champions League group stage goals and overtaking his longtime rival on that measure is considered an additional goal. Winning trophies and family reasons are also important drivers.
Jorge Mendes is working to establish exit routes from Old Trafford, and the athletic understands that talks have been held with Sporting Lisbon. Ronaldo’s first professional club is in the Champions League after finishing second in the Primeira Liga.
Finding the funding for such a move – including covering his high wages – would be complex and head coach Ruben Amorim is said to have reservations about including Ronaldo in his squad, given the massive change in dynamics the 37 year-old would inevitably cause.
However, Ronaldo’s signing brings clear commercial benefits as he opens up endless marketing opportunities on the global stage.
Atletico Madrid, United’s opponent in Saturday’s friendly in Oslo, have been linked with an approach, despite club president Enrique Cerezo calling a move “practically impossible”. Hardcore fans have also protested against a bid.
Ronaldo is not expected to perform in the Norwegian capital, but an appearance the following day for Rayo Vallecano’s visit to Old Trafford would be more realistic.
Ronaldo has remained fit at the Portuguese training base in Lisbon, but is reported to be four weeks behind his teammates in terms of physical and tactical readiness under Erik ten Hag.
On Tuesday, Ten Hag spoke to Ronaldo for the first time since he made his intentions known and the United manager has consistently said publicly how important the Portuguese striker is to his team. But the situation threatens to overshadow Ten Hag’s preparations for the start of the Premier League, with the opening game against Brighton in 10 days.
Ronaldo missed United’s pre-season tour after being given leave of absence for “personal reasons”. United were unsure of his exact movements and intentions in training, however, until he drove through the entrance in Carrington on Tuesday morning with Mendes in the passenger seat.
He underwent medical tests, including some grass work, but did not participate in the session with his teammates. He saw United play Wrexham in a friendly at Carrington on Wednesday.
United are adamant about keeping Ronaldo. Anthony Martial would be the only recognized striker if United approved a sale.
Ten Hag has said that the team needs to be strengthened in the attack, but a move for Antony is ruled out at this stage because Ajax has put an asking price of €100 million on its head.
United have held talks about Benjamin Sesko, the 19-year-old striker at Red Bull Salzburg who scored against Liverpool on Wednesday, but a transfer is perceived as complicated because the Austrians do not want to sell. In addition, the Red Bull model often sees players being moved between their clubs, with RB Leipzig an obvious course of action if that attitude were to change.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Ronaldo is finally back at United – but his future remains unclear