Why Cristiano Ronaldo would be a £100m bargain for Manchester United
Manchester United should ignore the naysayers and go all in to bring Cristiano Ronaldo back to Old Trafford.
£365,000 a week works out as around £19m a year. Assume Cristiano Ronaldo signs a three-year deal at Manchester United, perhaps four at a push, and with a transfer fee to Real Madrid, the overall sum could cost £200m. That, for any thirty-something except Jared Kushner, is a serious amount of money. There are arguments for and against signing Ronaldo, but money does not need to come into it. In truth, the only real argument that should decide the course of action is: It’s Ronaldo, so you should buy him.
It has been said that there is a better use of £200m for United. Looking at the current squad, another central defender, midfielder and striker are required, and a winger wouldn’t go amiss either. Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Luke Shaw and Marouane Fellaini still exist, and that remains a problem. This all needs to be resolved for United, but that is a separate argument. The other areas of the team are already being addressed. Victor Lindelof has been signed from Benfica, and can be no worse than either Jones or Smalling. Alvaro Morata should arrive from Real Madrid. United have been linked to Fabinho to reinforce a midfield that still regards Ander Herrera as an important figure. Should they, or similar transfers, go through, United will have likely solved their glaring weaknesses.
United are interested in buying two strikers, not just Morata. Andrea Belotti has been suggested an option, as has Romelu Lukaku. Clearly, Jose Mourinho has no interest in skimping in the transfer market this season, with good reason. But remember, Belotti should cost the best part of £100m. Should United decide to switch attention to Ronaldo, they don’t need to find new money, they just need to wonder if Belotti is a better player than Ronaldo.
Morata can take care of the longer term, as can Marcus Rashford, and Anthony Martial if he rediscovers his first-season form. What United need, having finished sixth and shown themselves still psychologically brittle, is a huge improvement right now. The future needs to be addressed, but there is no point ignoring immediate needs - this is United, not Arsenal. United have failed in front of goal for three consecutive seasons, and last season did not sufficiently stray from the staid, predictable attacks that began with Louis van Gaal. They needed a flat-track bully, and there are few flatter tracks than the Premier League. Ronaldo needs goals to maintain his ego and his reputation. The Premier League regards Laurent Koscielny as one of its best defenders.
United are losing Wayne Rooney (they hope) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic this summer. That should free up more than £500,000 of salary a week, more than enough to cover Ronaldo’s demands. They also have cash reserves of over £200m, and have enormous cash flow to service any more debt they see fit to introduce. They have players to sell to raise additional funds, too, so there should be little worry about the cost of getting everyone they want and Ronaldo.
But losing Rooney and Ibrahimovic comes at a cost. Ibrahimovic is a man not shy of demanding more from his team-mates. His fitness is an example for the rest of the squad to follow, and he doesn’t shirk from attention. He might not always meet the standards he professes to maintain, but he gets a lot closer than anyone else did last season. United will miss his arrogance. Rooney is a popular figure in the dressing room, and one of the few throwbacks to the Alex Ferguson era of dominance. While his fitness and lifestyle is an example to youngsters of what exactly not to do, he remains an important figure.
Then, there are the more obvious things to consider. Ronaldo has won the Ballon d’Or three times in the last four seasons. He has over 400 goals in fewer than 400 appearances for Real Madrid. Ibrahimovic has showed that age does not necessarily guarantee a serious drop-off in performance, or returns in front of goal. If United do not radically improve, the whole side might struggle to match such a return.
Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring to make it 1-0 against West Ham during their English Premier League soccer match at Old Trafford in Manchester October 29, 2008Reuters
He is a better player now than when he left United, and in many ways has never been better. He may well be expensive, but he is so magnificent that he remains cheap even at £100m. Critics of the transfer should not wonder if United need Ronaldo, but if Ronaldo actually needs United.