In hindsight, Ronaldo’s departure from Juventus highlights the reason why the relationship between both parties was needless in the first place. Both sides can move on from the episode knowing that things could have been better….
Written by Olugbenga Olonade
Cristiano Ronaldo arrived in Italy amidst a lot of fanfare. At the time of his arrival at Juventus, he had come off the back of a three-peat of Champions League wins, and was reigning World Player of the year. His decision to leave Real Madrid had surprised many, the Spanish club was arguably the best in the world at the time and Ronaldo was the star man, moving to a completely different league posed a dissimilar challenge for the Portuguese legend and it wasn’t so difficult to see why he found such a challenge more appealing.
For Juventus, the chance to add arguably the greatest player of all time to its ranks was not one that they could easily turn down. The man that had been nicknamed “Mr Champions League” was available and willing to play for the Bianconeri, a club that last won the ‘Big Ears’ in 1996 and had appeared in the final twice in the three years before Ronaldo’s arrival. Signing the Portuguese seemed like the next step for the Turin-based club, as it felt like the club needed a player of Ronaldo’s quality and calibre if it was to take the final step needed to bring the Champions League trophy to Turin whilst boosting its image and brand worldwide.
Getting Ronaldo to Turin took quite an effort, his €117 million transfer fee along with a salary of €31 million per season wasn’t exactly pocket change for Juventus. Funds were tight following transfers of Douglas Costa, Leonardo Bonucci and Joao Cancelo the same summer, but in the end, the Bianconeri’s parent company, Exor, helped the club pay part of the transfer fee – much to the displeasure of Fiat (owned by Exor) workers – and Ronaldo became a Juventus player.
Three years after the much celebrated transfer, Ronaldo has parted ways with Juventus in favour of a return to Manchester United, and while that might not be out of place, – I mean, footballers move every summer – the circumstances that have led to the Portuguese forward’s departure however, leave much to be desired.
The reports of a potential move away from Juventus were littered all over the media over the past year or so. At a point, it appeared like the ex-Real Madrid man was so desperate to leave Turin with reports of a move to almost every top club in Europe. One month, it was PSG, the other month, a return to Real Madrid seemed nailed on to happen. What was even more surprising was the fact that the 36-year-old did little to quell the rumors, only releasing a statement on social media asking for respect from the media whilst doing nothing to confirm or deny the many rumors.
Fast forward a couple of weeks or so after the said statement, Cristiano Ronaldo is a Manchester United player once again. Forcing a move away from Juventus, four days before the transfer market closes, leaving the club to scramble for a replacement. Makes one wonder if the entire marriage between both parties was worth the stress.
Without a doubt, Juve have grown in brand value since the arrival of Ronaldo in 2018, however, one could argue that the financial advantage that the Ronaldo brought to the club may have been negated by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the club’s finances. Yes, that has nothing to do with Cristiano, but it goes to emphasize the argument that Juventus have not been better off financially.
The Old Lady had conquered Italy for seven straight seasons before the arrival of Ronaldo, in fact, prior to the 36-year-old’s transfer from Real Madrid, Juventus, under Massimiliano Allegri, had won the domestic double for four straight seasons, domestic domination was never a problem for the Bianconeri. What Juventus really wanted was the holy grail of club football, the UEFA Champions League trophy. It could be an exaggeration to say that the club was obsessed with winning the ‘Big Ears’, but it was an open secret that winning the biggest club competition was a target for a club that had achieved domestic dominance in Serie A for the better part of a decade.
The Portuguese superstar promised the Juve tifosi that he’d “do the impossible to win the Champions League” with the club while speaking to reporters in Dubai just before the Globe Soccer Awards in 2019. After the Bianconeri’s comeback aggregate victory against Atletico Madrid in also in 2019, Ronaldo declared enthusiastically that he was bought by Juventus “to help do things that they have never done before”, a reference to the club’s barren run in the competition since 1996.
In his three years at the club however, the club regressed, at least on the pitch. It is difficult to put the blame solely on Ronaldo though, because just by looking at his output at the club, the numbers speak for him. One could argue that he failed to step up when it mattered most, – Champions League games against FC Porto, Ajax and Olympique Lyon are examples – nonetheless, Juventus are also partly to blame, the club failed to address a lot of the pressing needs of the team, especially in midfield. It also didn’t help that an entire year was wasted on a coach that had no coaching experience whatsoever. The supporting cast – players and coaches alike – was simply too poor and the results were evident on the field. The club lost its stranglehold domestically and failed to progress beyond the Champions League quarter-finals during Ronaldo’s time at the club.
Both parties have now parted ways, Juventus and Ronaldo can move on from this chapter knowing that things could have gone better than the way they went or maybe it was an needless relationship in the first place. At United though, the Portuguese returns to a club where he’s adored, while Juventus get to start another cycle, post-Ronaldo, knowing that the massive chunk of money that would have been spent on one man’s wages can now be used to addressed other areas of the team.
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