Well, that’s what Jorge Mendes briefed the world’s press, anyway. Portugal and Real Madrid’s top goalscorer is supposedly deeply unhappy at being accused of tax fraud to the tune of £13 million and is ready to leave Real Madrid, the club of his life, over his treatment at the hands of the Spanish authorities. This could be a messy situation, given the Spanish authorities aren’t likely to let this charge go, and there’s always a chance this could just be his attempt to garner one last payday from Los Blancos. After all, there were similar stories about Lionel Messi and Neymar after their tax cases broke, but both are going nowhere. This could be the case with Real Madrid’s No. 7.
What does he have to prove?
Absolutely nothing. Let’s make that perfectly clear: if Ronaldo walks away from Real Madrid tomorrow he will do so as one of their five best players of all-time. Scoring 406 goals in 394 games is so staggering, it seems unreal, but this is no fake news and is as real as it gets.
He’s helped them to win La Liga twice, the Copa del Rey twice, and the Champions League three times. He added the Supercopa de España, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup for a complete haul.
It took Raul 16 years to score 323 goals for his beloved Madrid, but Ronaldo blew by that total in half the time.
He’s scored more goals in the Champions League than anyone ever has with 105. He’s been an absolute phenom in white, and has only been denied even more titles by the baffling brilliance of Barcelona and Messi. Without them, he’d have reigned supreme.
So he has absolutely nothing to prove to anyone. If he decides to move, that will be his right. He won’t be running away and will be leaving on his own terms. But what are those?
What does he need?
He needs love.
It sounds obvious but in terms of emotional support, Ronaldo needs a lot of it. He twice tried to leave Madrid before when he felt he wasn’t being supported by the club enough in terms of his individual achievements, such as chasing the Ballon d’Or.
Since then Madrid stepped their game up and Ronaldo seemed to improve his performances on the pitch. So any club with designs on luring him must have significant pull in the national media to provide the Portugal international with the love and adoration he needs.
Any club must also be able to pay him the king’s ransom that Ronaldo calls a living wage. With super-agent Mendes powering him, you can be sure he wouldn’t settle for any discount rates or low-ball offers. It has to be the big dollars (or euros or pounds) or he’s not interested.
And one cannot forget the final thing: he needs competition. He needs to be challenged. Ronaldo is at heart a competitive beast. He lives for the challenge, he thrives on it.
If you tell him ‘no’, he won’t listen and will find a way to do it anyway. He cannot be stopped. So any club whose only attribute is money can forget about it. Money matters, but it’s not the most important thing.
Which clubs could provide this?
Well here’s where we get down to it. Obviously any club in the Chinese Super League (particularly national heavyweights Guangzhou Evergrande, who are top of the table looking to make it seven consecutive titles) could offer him money. More money than anyone else.
They could also get him the kind of Asian brand exposure he would love, but challenge? In China? Where Paulinho is a top player?
So we cross the Pacific to the USA and its Major League Soccer. Playing for LA Galaxy (whose shirt sponsor, Herbalife, also have a deal with Ronaldo) in the entertainment capital of the world, so close to Hollywood and all of the associated glamour and glitz, would be right-up his alley.
And media coverage? Good lord, you couldn’t find a better place for that. The money would be there too. But competition? Sure, Cristiano would score five a game in the USA, but would it really satisfy the hunger he has to compete?
Sailing over the Atlantic we come to Manchester United, Inter Milan and Paris Saint-Germain. All three clubs have enormous pull in their respective media to provide him the public adulation, as well as stacks of cash with which to pay him the wages he will demand.
Inter could immediately make him the messiah, their great hero and the chance to lead the club back to the promised land of the Champions League.
But crucially: United and PSG are both already in the Champions League – Ronaldo’s favourite competition. They could provide him access to the brightest stage in all of football, with all the requisite attention and possibility.
Also United, his former club, don’t have anyone wearing the No. 7…
What should he do?
If Ronaldo is bound and determined to leave Real Madrid then his next destination should quite simply be PSG. The French club are seeking to re-establish themselves since Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s departure and could use a talisman to build around. Ronaldo is perfect for that.
With Monaco ascending to the Ligue 1 throne, there’s a fresh challenge to re-establish the club as the dominant force on a domestic front. But the Parisians’ ultimate goal is to win the Champions League, and to do that you need someone as accustomed to dominating that competition, as Ronaldo is.
They have the deep pockets to pay him whatever salary he desires and can offer him a fresh challenge. Manchester United will always have an allure, but he’s been there and done that.
And at 32-years-old, Inter is perhaps too much of a project. PSG would be something new: a chance to win a third major European league, and a chance to win the Champions League with a third different club, matching the record set by Clarence Seedorf.
If he has to leave Real Madrid, then Cristiano Ronaldo joining PSG makes the most sense on every conceivable level. They can offer the money, the adoration and the challenge.