Just seven months before he left Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo had revealed his desire to finish his career in the Spanish capital. In all-white, the Portuguese forward hasn’t just become a legend, but one of the greatest to have ever played the sport and so it was somewhat surprising that Juventus were able to lure him to Turin in the summer of 2018.
Nearly three years on and it has been reported Ronaldo could retrace his steps by returning to Real Madrid. Signed by Juventus to help them take the final step in the Champions League, the Bianconeri have in fact got further away from their ultimate objective with the Portuguese forward leading the line, crashing out of the competition before the semi final stage in three successive seasons to Ajax, Lyon and Porto.
Famously, Ronaldo defines himself by the trophies he wins. While the 36-year-old has added two Serie A titles to his honour list, he would have stood a better chance of staying at the top of the sport at Real Madrid. Ronaldo’s return to the Spanish capital would prove he never should have left in the first place.
Ronaldo hasn’t been a failure as a Juve player, scoring 95 times in 123 appearances, but ‘Project Ronaldo’ certainly has. Now, it seems the Italian giants are ready to cut their losses, quite literally after posting losses of €71.4m for the 2019/20 season. Ronaldo’s exit would see his €31m salary cut from the wage bill.
Real Madrid’s financial position isn’t exactly secure either, with the club currently carrying €901m of debt in part attributable to the redevelopment of their stadium, but with Juventus reportedly demanding a fee of just €29m for Ronaldo the money would surely be found to fund a transfer, even if only to please the fans.
The team Ronaldo would return to wouldn’t be much different to the one he left behind. Zinedine Zidane is still Real Madrid manager, Sergio Ramos is still club captain and Luka Modric is still the player who pulls the strings in the centre of the pitch. Karim Benzema’s role has changed slightly since Ronaldo’s departure three years ago, but the Portuguese would slot back into a side that was built around him not so long ago.
One difference Ronaldo would experience upon his return to Spain would be the shift in his relationship with Florentino Perez. “The president looked at me in a way that suggested I was no longer indispensable if you know what I mean,” the forward revealed. “That is what made me think about leaving.”
In 2018, Ronaldo was arguably the best player on the planet. He held the power over Perez. Now, though, he is a declining force and might have to patch up his relationship with the Real Madrid president before a return can be considered viable. Ronaldo needs his old club more than they need him.
There remains an element of mystery to the circumstances around Ronaldo’s departure from Real Madrid. Former club president Ramon Calderon claimed the Portuguese left after discovering a plan to replace him with Neymar. Others suspect the high-profile tax case against Ronaldo in Spain played a role in his decision.
Whatever the real explanation, Ronaldo surely now looks back on his hasty exit from Real Madrid with some regret. One of the greatest players of all-time was a perfect match for one of the biggest clubs in the world and it could still be a good match going forward. A reunion won’t make up for the last three years, but it could ensure Ronaldo doesn’t waste any more time.