Cristiano Ronaldo has confessed that he still misses Manchester United, five years after leaving Old Trafford for the bright lights of the Bernabeu. The Real Madrid superstar has left the door open for a potential return in the future - but, when that time comes, United must say thanks but no thanks to the two-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Ronaldo turns 30 in February, by which point he’ll still have another three years left to run on his current deal. Assuming he’ll see out his contract, the prolific forward will be 33 and - presumably - a shadow of the star that has lit up European football for the past six or seven years.
While the Red Devils’ faithful may clamour over the idea of Ronaldo making a heroic return to Old Trafford, it’s safe to say that what they picture happening in their heads would be far removed from the reality.
Ronaldo’s latest quotes
Speaking during a promotional event in Singapore, Ronaldo commented: "Yes I really miss English football.
"For me it was one of the best years in my career when I was there at Manchester United. Everyone knows that.
"It is the club that is still in my heart. I really miss (the club).
"But now my life is in Spain. I'm enjoying playing there too. Part of my life is there. The future we never know.
"I'm really, really happy in the Spanish league at the moment."
Make of those comments what you will. But everybody associated with Manchester United must move on from the fairytale idea of bringing Ronaldo back to his so-called home. After all, he has spent the peak years of his career at the Bernabeu and reserved his most incredible performances for Real Madrid.
The Portuguese winger is at his dream club, regardless of what his magnanimous comments towards his former employers might have you believe.
Ronaldo at Manchester United (2003-2009)
Van Gaal can create a better team without Ronaldo
Say, for example, Manchester United managed to bring Ronaldo back to Old Trafford next summer. Barring a spectacular and unexpected dip in form, the Portuguese will still be one of the world’s best players; but basing a team around a superstar on the wrong side of 30 would be a poor decision - and one Louis van Gaal is extremely unlikely to make.
The Dutchman knows the values of creating a team ethic, but any team with Ronaldo in it is designed to get the best out of him and his match-winning qualities. If he was approaching the peak years of his career - 26, 27 or 28 - then fair enough, but this is a player who will inevitably begin to decline as a world-class footballer in the not-too-distant future.
Furthermore, re-signing Ronaldo before his contract expires would cost a fortune. Manchester United sold him for £80 million in 2009 - a bargain price for Real Madrid, on reflection - but they would have to pay at least £50 million, you suspect, if he was to leave the Bernabeu within the next 12-24 months.
Quite simply, Ronaldo wouldn’t be worth the outlay.
Manchester United fans: are you desperate to see Ronaldo back at Old Trafford? Or do you also believe that the Red Devils must look to the future - and leave Cristiano in the past. Have your say in the comments section below.