Cristiano Ronaldo has reiterated his desire to leave Manchester United during meetings at the club’s Carrington training base, but executives continue to insist he is not for sale.
After discussions, it is felt that a primary objective for Ronaldo wishing to depart is to spend the 2022-23 season at a Champions League club so he can cement his scoring record in the competition. He currently leads the way on 140 goals — 15 ahead of Lionel Messi, who is two years younger. United are in the Europa League this campaign.
Ronaldo is also three goals behind Messi in the table of Champions League group stage goals and overtaking his long-term rival on that metric is thought to be an additional objective. Winning trophies and family reasons are also major motivations.
Jorge Mendes is working to establish exit routes from Old Trafford, and The Athletic understands talks have been held with Sporting Lisbon. Ronaldo’s first professional club are in the Champions League after finishing second in the Primeira Liga.
Finding the finance for such a move — including covering his high wages — would be complex and it is said head coach Ruben Amorim has reservations about bringing Ronaldo into his team given the huge change in dynamic the 37-year-old would inevitably cause.
Signing Ronaldo, however, does bring clear commercial benefits as he opens up endless marketing opportunities on the global stage.
Atletico Madrid, United’s opponents in a friendly in Oslo on Saturday, are being linked with an approach despite the club’s president Enrique Cerezo calling a move “practically impossible”. Hardcore fans have also protested against a bid.
Ronaldo is not expected to feature in the Norwegian capital, with an appearance the following day for the visit of Rayo Vallecano to Old Trafford said to be more realistic.
Ronaldo has been keeping fit at Portugal’s Lisbon training base but is described as being four weeks behind his team-mates in terms of physical and tactical readiness under Erik ten Hag.
On Tuesday, Ten Hag spoke with Ronaldo for the first time since he communicated his intentions and United’s manager has consistently said publicly how important the Portuguese centre-forward is to his team. But the situation is threatening to overshadow Ten Hag’s preparations for the start of the Premier League, with the opening game against Brighton 10 days away.
Ronaldo missed United’s pre-season tour after being granted leave for “personal reasons”. United have though been uncertain over his exact movements and intentions on training, right up until he drove through the entrance at Carrington with Mendes in the passenger seat on Tuesday morning.
He underwent medical testing, including some work on the grass, but did not take part in the session alongside his team-mates. He watched United face Wrexham in a friendly at Carrington on Wednesday.
United are adamant about keeping Ronaldo. Anthony Martial would be the only recognised senior centre-forward if United sanctioned a sale.
Ten Hag has said the squad needs strengthening in attack, but a move for Antony is being ruled out at this stage due to Ajax placing a €100million asking price on his head.
United have held talks over Benjamin Sesko, the 19-year-old striker at Red Bull Salzburg who scored against Liverpool on Wednesday, but a transfer is seen as complicated because the Austrians do not want to sell. Additionally, the Red Bull model often sees players moved between their clubs, with RB Leipzig an obvious path should that stance change.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Ronaldo is finally back at United – but his future remains unclear