When the news broke on June 11th 2009 that Manchester United had accepted a world record offer for Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid, there was a feeling of great sadness amongst United fans, despite the clear inevitability of it all.
It was the end of what had been a glorious chapter for the club and Sir Alex, who had signed this skinny little teenager from Sporting Lisbon six years previously. What they created was a footballing genius, who will go down as one of the game’s greatest ever.
If you look at Ronaldo’s behaviour during the whole saga, at times he was bang out of order, particularly with the claims of being a ‘slave’. But Sir Alex had a hold over the Portuguese superstar, and his pure genius allowed us all to forget his stupidity and rank him as a club legend. To achieve that in six years isn’t bad going at all.
His return in 2013 to Old Trafford in Real Madrid colours was always going to be emotional for both the player and the club. The affection he still holds in his heart for United was evident throughout both ties, with an almost pained expression etched across his face as he condemned us to a Champions League exit.
Sitting watching Real Madrid’s demolition of Bayern Munich last night, it was hard not to sit and wonder what might have been. What if we had been able to hold onto Cristiano for just a few more years?
His talent has, in my mind, escalated since he left for the Spanish capital. His goals-to-games ratio is absolutely frightening (at time of publishing he has played 204 games and scored 214 goals) and his general impact on matches has, if at all possible, become even more devastating than before. He is still only 29 years old.
In a scene reminiscent of a terrible romantic movie, I found myself watching season review DVDs of years gone by last night after the match, pining for a return of the days when we were truly a joy to watch. A time where the question wasn’t if we were going to win, but simply by how many the victory margin would amount to. A time where, no matter how poor the performance had been, we could rely on the fact that we had someone in the side capable of hammering it in from almost anywhere on the field.
It is mind boggling to think that in the time it took Antonio Valencia, a signing made in the aftermath of Ronaldo’s sale, to score twenty goals, Cristiano had scored two hundred at Madrid. Did we command a high enough transfer fee for him? Probably not. But, at the time, it was clear how much the player desired the switch and, after where he had taken us in the years previous, did he really owe us anything?
I would love to see a day come that he is back in the red of United. I do wonder how close that came to being a reality this summer with rumblings of a potential deal being worked on. I can’t help but feel that once Sir Alex walked away, our chances of recapturing Ronaldo all but vanished. But, who knows?
Cristiano Ronaldo will always be a player that refuses to rule out the possibility of anything happening and I would personally be very surprised if he finished his career at Madrid. Whether he would favour a return to Old Trafford remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, we’d welcome him back with open arms.
Start writing the film now people.