Home FOR NAIJA Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo, and a strange game of poker

Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo, and a strange game of poker

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When Edu Aguirre went on El Chiringuito and told the whole world Carlo Ancelotti was trying to bring Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid, you could feel a transfer saga coming along. And even though Ancelotti went on Twitter to deny the rumors and Ronaldo went to Instagram to do the same, you just knew this story wasn’t going to dissipate.

Close friend or not, a report from Aguirre is dismissable to many fans. But a report from Fabrizio Romano? Now that’s where things get more interesting. Because on Sunday before Juventus’ Serie A opener against Udinese, the most famous football reporter on the planet – who is based out of Italy, no less – tweeted that the most famous footballer on the planet specifically requested Juve not start him. Why? Because Ronaldo wants to “find a solution on the market in the next days”.

In other words, he wants out.

After the 2-2 draw with Udinese, Romano tweeted a quote from Juve executive and club legend Pavel Nedved, who plainly stated what the Bianconeri have been telling us all along. Ronaldo isn’t going anywhere.

But there is one piece of information that is consistent between both of Romano’s tweets. There have been no official bids made to Juve for Ronaldo.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus are no longer a good fit

A lot can change, though, between now and the 31st of August. For the past few months, we have seen multiple reports stating that Ronaldo is open to leaving, most specifically back to Real Madrid. Although Florentino Perez and Carlo Ancelotti have both publicly denied interest in CR7, if Kylian Mbappe isn’t available to sign from PSG, then the reasons against signing the proven goal-scorer turn out to be quite flimsy. 

Ronaldo, for his part, does not want to make a circus out of all this. And you can respect that. His statement on social media made it clear that he does not want any distractions, but, deep down, he probably knew that saying anything publicly would only increase the speculation.

Furthermore, it’s patently obvious that Ronaldo is not thriving at Juve. Now let me make this clear. He himself is playing very well. He was Serie A’s top scorer last season and one of the league’s best dribbles, despite the narrative that the 36-year-old has totally declined. But while Ronaldo is playing well individually, Juventus have not taken another step forward since signing him, which was the point of bringing him on in the first place.

That’s not on Ronaldo. He has done his job. The front office of Juve, however, set the team back by signing Ronaldo without a good plan around him, as the rest of the squad was filled with underperforming players on bloated contracts. The Bianconeri need a rebuild, and Ronaldo and the club probably both know that. A 36-year-old Ronaldo deserves a more competitive side in the short-term to maximize the productivity of his final years.

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Real Madrid, PSG, and Cristiano Ronaldo aren’t showing their true hand

So if you take this report from Fabrizio Romano on why Ronaldo did not start, previous reporting in the Spanish press regarding his desire to reunite with the Royal White club, a social media statement that never mentioned Juventus by name, and Aguirre’s controversial report on El Chiringuito, you get a picture of a player who privately wants to leave to a better situation but does not want to cause problems. Ronaldo wants to be the professional here, but he wants to make it clear to Real Madrid, PSG, or any other interested club that he is ready to go.

This game of poker, wherein each party does not want to show their hand until absolutely necessary, extends to the clubs themselves. PSG, for example, have interest in Ronaldo as Mbappe’s replacement. But they don’t want to lose Mbappe. Yet replacing Mbappe with Ronaldo is perhaps the best move they can make, especially since their marketing PR spin machine would explode with Messi and CR7 in the same squad.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid have eyes on Mbappe and would love for Ronaldo to make a move to PSG so that their top target is available a year earlier. Yet they could also use Ronaldo themselves, considering he would be their best goal-scorer and a one-year superstar before Mbappe arrives. (Or maybe he can co-exist with two players who idolized him in Erling Haaland and Mbappe, though that is highly doubtful.)

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There are so many intertwined pieces here, and it’s hard to see what each party actually wants. Ronaldo could just as easily wait to fulfill his contract, leave Turin professionally, and sign with PSG in 2022. But does he want to waste a year of his career with a club that won’t be competitive in the Champions League, which is his defining competition? Do PSG really want to miss out on selling Mbappe for 120 million euros just to make a point when they can achieve their Champions League goal with Ronaldo instead? And would Real Madrid really turn their noses at CR7 on the principle of keeping the past in the past if Mbappe is unachievable this summer?

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These are the questions that baffle us, and they baffle us because we have very little clue of what is true and false, nor do we have an understanding of what each of these clubs or individuals value most. What I do know is that we could be headed for a very interesting close to the 2021 summer transfer window – or an unforgettable 2022 window if these loose ends are not tied up.



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