Manchester United’s summer has been thrown into turmoil with news that Cristiano Ronaldo has asked to leave the club if they are presented with a suitable offer.
The Premier League giants declined to comment on Saturday night after reports emerged that the 37-year-old attacker has asked for his second spell at Old Trafford to end after less than 12 months.
Chelsea, Napoli and Bayern Munich, who have at least publicly distanced themselves from the pursuit of Ronaldo, are all said to have been briefed about the situation by Ronaldo’s agent, Jorge Mendes.
Ronaldo will return to pre-season preparation with new United manager Erik ten Hag on Monday, after taking an extended break from a summer of international service.
And with United leaving on Friday for their pre-season tour of Asia and Australia, his near future will certainly dominate Ten Hag’s agenda†
Ronaldo made an unfortunate impression in the closing weeks of last season when United’s attempt to finish in the top four went badly.
And it was widely reported that the veteran striker had demanded a summer of significant roster reinforcements so he could commit to the second year of his contract.
That deal, signed at the end of August 2021, was a two-year contract, with a standard club option to extend it for another year.
But it is widely accepted in the game that given Ronaldo’s status, the decision to see out the second year would be entirely his.
United paid £12.85million to bring Ronaldo back to Old Trafford after a 12-year absence last summer – a fraction of the £100million Juventus paid to Real Madrid three years earlier in his previous transfer.
Reports claim Ronaldo has asked to leave if a “suitable” offer comes in, although there is no indication whether his contract contains an escape clause.
Early last month, United’s official website published an interview in which their star asset described how he was looking forward to the new season.
And, as recently as last week when reports surfaced linking Ronaldo to ChelseaUnited were adamant that he would stay with the club.
A spokesman said at the time: “Cristiano is not for sale. We want and expect that he will be with us next season.”
However, on Saturday night, United declined to comment on reports that Ronaldo has decided he does not want to stay with a club that struggled to finish sixth in the Premier League last season and have yet to add another summer signing.
United went through the month of June for the first time since 2010 without adding a single new player over the summer period.
And while deals are underway for midfielder Frenkie de Jong, left-back Tyrell Malacia and Ajax midfielder Lisandro Martinez, United have yet to finalize any for their new manager.
Given his phenomenal fitness levels, Ronaldo thinks he could play at the highest level for another three or four years, beating former United stars Ryan Giggs and Teddy Sheringham, who both played in the Premier League well past their 40th birthday.
But he is apparently unwilling to ‘waste’ one of those seasons in the relative obscurity of the Europa League, where United will be forced to play next season.
Significantly, reports in Germany recently claimed that Mendes had “offered” Ronaldo to Bayern – with the Munich club publicly declining any interest.
And Mendes met new Chelsea owner Todd Boehly. Given the agent’s status in the game, any number of targets could have been up for debate, but it is believed that the status of Ronaldo was one of the topics†
The striker, who turns 38 in February, was one of the few successful elements of United’s disastrous 2021-22, easily ending the season as the club’s top scorer, with 18 Premier League goals and 24 in all competitions.
His possible departure would also cause Ten Hag major headaches. Ronaldo’s compatriot Bruno Fernandes was the only other United player to reach double figures in goals last season, and only just barely, with 10.
Mason Greenwood, who was banned in January, was United’s third-highest goalscorer with five goals and Ronaldo’s departure would force Ten Hag to take immediate and urgent action to replace an attacker.
United’s frustrations in the transfer market so far will ease somewhat with left-back Malacia having to undergo a medical before completing his transfer from Feyenoord for around £13million.