Cristiano Ronaldo finally put an end to rumors about his next destination on Friday by completing his expected move to Saudi Pro League team Al Nasr.
Manchester United parted ways with the Portuguese superstar by mutual agreement in November, despite the 37-year-old being more than six months away from the end of his contract at Old Trafford.
The move came after an explosive interview in which Ronaldo said he felt “betrayed” by United and expressed his disrespect for manager Erik ten Hag and former boss Ralf Rangnick.
The World Cup seemed like an immediate priority for Ronaldo, but he had little to offer, just one goal in the group stage against Ghana as Portugal failed to progress beyond the last eight.
Despite Ronaldo unsuccessfully trying to join the Champions League club before the start of the season, a return to the European elite competition still seemed possible thanks to the connections of Chelsea, Bayern and Sporting.
Major League Soccer was also touted as another route for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, although he chose to move to the Middle East as he left Europe for the first time in his distinguished career.
Here, Stats Perform explores why some potential directions for Ronaldo didn’t come to fruition.
— نادي النصر السعودي (@AlNassrFC) December 30, 2022
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With the recent conclusion of the MLS season, a move to North America would give Ronaldo a clean slate in 2023 and boost the league’s profile ahead of the 2026 World Cup in the US, Canada and Mexico.
Ronaldo needed a spot as a designated player for any franchise that wanted to make a move by taking a few clubs out of the equation, but David Beckham’s Inter Miami generated a lot of interest.
However, as rumors circulate that the Herons are looking to buy Lionel Messi, can Beckham and Miami afford both superstars?
Ronaldo’s return to United wasn’t as successful as fans would have liked, but a dreamlike reunion with childhood club Sporting CP has been repeatedly suggested.
The prospect of a Champions League next season may have pleased the striker, although Rubén Amorim’s side will play in the Europa League this season after being knocked out of UEFA’s main club competition.
While the fabled move home might have interested romantics, the exiles increasingly frustrated Amorim, who angrily answered such questions during the World Cup.
“Ronaldo was in Qatar, they had the opportunity to ask him, but they didn’t. I have been asked 500 times and I have already answered,” he said after the victory over Braga on December 19.
Reports have suggested that Julian Nagelsmann had held talks with Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendez, although Bayern Munich chief executive Oliver Kahn never suggested the former Real Madrid star would move to Germany.
“We briefly discussed Ronaldo at Bayern, and probably at Borussia too,” Kahn told BILD. “We also see the big picture of the Bundesliga.
“Of course, superstars like Ronaldo are an important factor in bringing attention to the league. He is one of the greatest players of the last decade. But we quickly brushed it aside.”
Chelsea have been repeatedly cited as contenders to snatch the striker from Premier League rivals United in order to satisfy new owner Todd Boly’s desire to sign with the Blues.
Thomas Tuchel was reportedly opposed to the offer, although his sacking as Chelsea manager earlier this year could have been the catalyst for a change of heart at Stamford Bridge.
But Graham Potter and Boely have turned down a move with plenty of attacking talent, while the Blues also appear to be strong favorites to sign RB Leipzig breakout star Christopher Nkunku.
At the top of Serie A and ahead of the World Cup break after an 11-match winning streak, Napoli were touted as a potential challenger for Ronaldo, who had dominated the Italian top division for three years with Juventus.
Striker Victor Osimhen has been linked with a move to United, but Napoli want to focus on the future despite Ronaldo’s outstanding record in the Champions League.
“We wanted to invest in a young team,” Napoli sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli told Corriere dello Sport.
He later added to Sky Sport Italia: “We never talked much about Ronaldo. In football, you won’t achieve anything with your ifs and buts. We are happy with the squad that we have, we are sure that this is a competitive team.”
He couldn’t, could he? With 311 goals scored in La Liga for Real Madrid, a move to bitter rivals Atlético would be one of the most memorable transfers in history.
While some at the Civitas Metropolitano may have flirted with the idea of seismic propulsion for their nemesis, coach Diego Simeone was never interested.
He told Tigo Sports: “Ronaldo is the absolute benchmark for Real Madrid and I wouldn’t want him to [Martin] Palermo ever played for River like I wouldn’t have seen [Juan Roman] Riquelme or [Ariel] Ortega plays for Boca. There are situations that are very clear.”