Cristiano Ronaldo’s options are limited as he reportedly grows frustrated at Manchester United.
The 36-year-old striker appeared hacked off as he was substituted with 20 minutes remaining of his side’s game against Brentford. Fortunately the game ended 3-1 in United’s favour, but the fact Ronaldo was sacrificed might hint at what Ralf Rangnick’s problems with the veteran are.
Clearly, starting with the player in most games is the sensible and pragmatic decision. He is the club’s top goalscorer and despite his gradually waning talents, he remains the best player at the club. But you cannot ignore that with his age and streamlined approach to the game, he does not suit the ideal of high pressing any longer. In truth, he probably never did.
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However, Rangnick or the next manager - very possibly picked by the German in his next role as a consultant - the club may decide that a player who is more prosaic and less brilliant could still offer more to a gegenpressing system. The promotion of Anthony Elanga shows that Rangnick is content to give younger players the chance to impress when others such as Edison Cavani, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard have more of a proven track record. And last night, he was rewarded with a goal.
Recently, Ronaldo’s interview suggested that he was unimpressed with younger players at the club, saying he could only show others how to act by example. It would be true that if others waste their opportunity to learn from the Portuguese then one of the biggest reasons to return him to Old Trafford has been blunted. As he also said recently when receiving his The Best award, the numbers don’t lie. He has been consistently excellent and essential to teams for more than a decade, unmatched by anyone except Lionel Messi.
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And it is perhaps Messi’s new club that offers him the only potential way out. Ronaldo said that he wants to play into his forties as long as his spirit holds up, with little concern for his body given his professional dedication. With 14 goals in 22 games this season he could finish again with 30 or more goals, meaning he remains an excellent presence in most squads in the top European leagues. He does not need to consider MLS or the Middle East just yet, for all the money that would earn him. Money is a useful motivating factor for most people, of course, but for Ronaldo, he wants goals and trophies. A move back to Sporting Lisbon might yet be a stretch as he could still conceivably win another Champions League trophy.
PSG, though, could afford him the requisite glamour, as well as the money he could pull in from less credible moves. They also need him. Kylian Mbappe is almost certain to move to Real Madrid, and it appears that Erling Haaland will either follow him to Spain in general, to Barcelona, or to the Bernabeu to be his team-mate.
Messi and Ronaldo
Image credit: Getty Images
Another factor could be the commercial appeal of finally teaming Ronaldo with Messi, a pairing whose barely concealed antipathy has now transformed into a mutual respect. Putting them on the pitch together in the same team would be a remarkable 'Football Manager' achievement, and could also finally deliver European success to the Paris mega-club. Ronaldo has few options left to consider if he wants to remain in the spotlight.
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