The debate over the world’s greatest player to ever grace a football pitch will rage on forever. Older fans will talk about the likes of Pele, Diego Maradona and Johan Cruyff as the masters of the game. Meanwhile, the younger generations may speak about the merits of Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo or even Ronaldinho.
There are also two current active players who have to be right up there with the best ever in PSG’s Lionel Messi and Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo. However, the latter has found himself in a slightly unfamiliar position of late, sitting on his team’s bench.
Not playing at United
The veteran was an unused substitute in United’s humiliating 6-3 derby defeat at city rivals Manchester City on Sunday afternoon. The fact that head coach Erik ten Hag didn’t call upon the forward maybe suggests he is not the force he used to be. The Dutchman claimed the decision was for the good of the player’s career.
The fact that Ronaldo didn’t start the game at the Etihad Stadium was not a major surprise, as the 37-year-old has started just one Premier League game this season, making five appearances off the substitutes bench. The fact that he didn’t feature at all was maybe more surprising.
That he has featured so little under Ten Hag is maybe a hint that Ronaldo does not fit into his football philosophy. Raising further doubts about his future in Manchester, which only further raises speculation about his future with the club.
Could He Exit In January?
According to reports from the British publication, the Telegraph, Ronaldo is surplus to requirements at United and will be allowed to leave the club in the January transfer window. The report claims that Ten Hag wanted to integrate Ronaldo into his team when he first took the United job in the summer but will now not stand in his way if a good offer comes his way.
The problem for Ronaldo is the same one he had during the summer when he was linked with numerous clubs, including Napoli and Fenerbahce: his massive pay packet. Many clubs would love to sign Cristiano Ronaldo, even in the twilight of his career, as he is a big pull both on and off the pitch when it comes to marketing. However, there are very few clubs that can match his reported £385,000 per-week contract at United.
If those clubs are not interested in bringing him in, then Ronaldo will be stuck in limbo. It is pretty clear he is unlikely to feature regularly for United under Erik ten Hag, so he would be left to rot on the bench. At 37 years old, the veteran star cannot afford to waste time sitting on the sidelines, just making cameos.
It seems unlikely, too, that Ronaldo will take a big pay cut to sign for another club, as his ego and bank manager wouldn’t allow it. It seems the forward is in a catch-22 situation. He may want to leave, but nobody can afford him.
He Still Has A Lot To Offer But Is In Decline
There is no doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo still has a lot to offer football. Not many athletes can say that they have a physique like Ronaldo’s at 37 years of age. However, age comes to us all, even the great Cristiano Ronaldo.
It is natural for even the fittest player’s performance to decline as they get older. Their bodies take slightly longer to heal from little knocks, even with the best medical staff in the world working with them. They tend to pick up more injuries as the body ages.
However, as the below table shows, Ronaldo still has plenty to offer clubs in terms of goals.
In terms of not only goals but also appearances, those numbers are impressive. The table shows that he is highly effective and is available for most games for a player of his age.
The other problem Ronaldo has, other than his high wages, is the fact that the team needs to be built around him to get the maximum effect of his ability. However, that can be a problem for head coaches who prefer a particular system or are trying to build a team.
Also, having a player with the big personality of Cristiano Ronaldo in a dressing room can undermine a head coach, which is never good for any football team. United head coach Ten Hag is attempting to instil his style of football at United. The presence of Ronaldo may well have not worked in his favour.
However, If Ronaldo can find a team willing to pay his wages and play to his strengths in January, then a move may well be the best thing for all the parties involved. The current situation suits nobody, as the player is unhappy and is unlikely to suddenly be starting games for United.
It will be interesting to see what happens in January. Ronaldo’s United expires next summer, and the men from Manchester look unlikely to take up the option of extending the forward’s contract for another year.
No doubt Ronaldo wants to be playing first-team football wherever he goes. Whatever your feeling on the veteran forward as a person, it would be a great shame to see such a talented footballer waste his talent when he is no doubt nearing the end of his illustrious career.