Manchester United have been heavily linked with re-signing Cristiano Ronaldo again this week
It sounds magical. A ‘homecoming’ of for someone who made his name at Old Trafford and who will go down as one of the greatest players of all time. The fact he is talked about in such a way while he is still playing is a testament to just what the Portuguese superstar has achieved.
In 2013, Ronaldo’s rumoured return was viable. He was 28-years-old, on top of his game, and would go on to do incredible things in the four seasons that followed. He very well could have been at Old Trafford during that time, but the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson put an end to it.
In 2017, it is not viable. Ronaldo will turn 33 in just two weeks’ time; his determination to be the highest paid player in the world will cost a fortune (even if United can afford it) and isn’t worth it; he’s finally started to go downhill after a miserable season in front of goal in La Liga; then there’s the issue of having to negotiate with Real Madrid.
Besides the money and negotiating, there is also one blindingly obvious clue that pours cold water on a Ronaldo ‘homecoming’. That concerns United’s imminent capture of Alexis Sanchez.
Not only would the Chilean fill the same role in the team as Ronaldo, he is widely believed to have been offered the club’s famous number seven shirt. A shirt number may seem like an insignificant detail, but in this instance it is quite the opposite.
He may not have wanted it when he first arrived as a skinny 18-year-old from Portugal, but Ronaldo and the number seven are now synonymous. ‘CR7’ has built his entire personal brand around it. United could not and absolutely would not make an offer for him to return to Old Trafford, only to turn around and say, ‘oh, sorry, we just gave your shirt to someone else.’
If there was any truth to the rumours that United do want Ronaldo back, Sanchez would not be getting the number seven shirt, he’d have been told to choose another. It’s that simple.
It is different now because Ronaldo is the icon. For that reason alone, you cannot ask him back and at the same time deny him something so sacred.