In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t that long ago £50million was an incredible sum for a footballer. If Real Madrid have the opportunity to re-sign a 35-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo for that figure, it remains incredible. Incredible value.
Naturally, Real Madrid would be interested at that price and one of the most remarkable homecomings in modern football history could be on the cards.
Los Blancos have tried and failed to move on from Ronaldo. But it’s nigh-on impossible to move on from a player who scored 450 goals in just 438 appearances and won 15 major honours in eight years.
Even from Turin, the shadow of Ronaldo looms large over the Santiago Bernabéu. Real were two points behind Barcelona in LaLiga before proceedings were halted. This is not a vintage Barça side by anyone’s measure, yet there’s a danger Zinedine Zidane’s side will finish second best. Again.
Failure to win the league for the third successive year won’t be tolerated, unless Real can wrestle the Champions League back off Liverpool. Simply put, they haven’t been the same team since their totemic forward left in a €100million deal in July 2018.
Karim Benzema has been one of the few beneficiaries. The Frenchman was subservient to Ronaldo when the two played together. Since assuming the role of main man, he has bagged 35 LaLiga goals in two seasons. In his final campaign alongside CR7 he weighed in with just five league strikes.
Real Madrid are still waiting for someone to step forward and take Ronaldo’s place as the leader and talisman of this side.
Initially, the Spanish giants went out of their way not to replace their former No.7. Mariano Diaz rejoined from Lyon in a €22million deal and took Ronaldo’s old squad number. But he was never a direct replacement for the club’s all-time leading scorer and scarcely featured.
That tactic failed miserably and led to Zidane’s Bernabéu return. So last summer Los Blancos went down the opposite route, paying €100million to sign Eden Hazard from Chelsea. The Belgian has also flopped – though injury has played its part.
So here we are. The 2020/21 season, whenever it starts, will be Real’s third without Ronaldo and they have not lifted a major honour – unless you include the FIFA Club World Cup or Supercopa de España – without him. At a club as demanding as Real where, let’s not forget, Ronaldo was regularly booed despite his other-worldly goalscoring figures, that just won’t do.
The money is irrelevant. So too is the fact re-signing the Juventus forward would step on Hazard’s toes, if not end his Real career entirely. It takes a certain quality to be a Galáctico and Ronaldo has it in abundance. Fifty million not only buys you goals and match-winning moments of brilliance, but it also buys you a superstar. A clutch player in every sense of the word. Someone who drags his team-mates along with him.
He might be in the final years of his career, but it’s still Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo. No-one has overtaken the Portuguese icon.
Re-signing Ronaldo makes Real Madrid Champions League and LaLiga favourites straight off the bat. Even the very fact he has been linked with a return to his old stomping ground will have an effect.
At any other club the notion of re-signing a 35-year-old would draw accusations of living in the past. Derision, even. But Real Madrid are unlike any other club. It’s Bayern Munich who bear the unofficial moniker ‘FC Hollywood’ but it’s an equally apt nickname for Los Blancos too. This is a club which is as much about the show as the sport and Ronaldo fits that bill too.
Even if we strip everything away and look solely at football, Ronaldo makes sense. He has bagged 53 times in 75 appearances for the Old Lady. That is a phenomenal return. He has already equalled the 21 Serie A strikes he managed in his maiden season. By netting in the 2-1 win at SPAL in February, Ronaldo scored in a record-equalling 11th straight Serie A match in his 1,000th professional game.
Such numbers render his age moot. Ronaldo is a physical specimen, the like of which we haven’t seen in football. There is no-one like the preening, prowling Portuguese poacher and if Real Madrid genuinely have the chance to pick him up for as little as £50million, they would be crazy not to.