As Manchester United begin to flounder early in the 2022/23 Premier League campaign, Cristiano Ronaldo’s time with the Red Devils could be coming to a close as the summer transfer window approaches the Sept. 1 deadline.
It seemed like a foregone conclusion that the two sides would part ways during Ronaldo’s summer of discontent, but new Man United manager Erik ten Hag initially remained steadfast about the superstar’s importance to the squad.
While that seemed to quiet things for a bit, the exceptionally poor start to the Premier League season for the Red Devils has reignited the media fervor around Ronaldo’s departure. The 37-year-old failed to score in either of Man United’s first two Premier League matches against Brighton and Brentford, which the club lost by a combined 6-1 scoreline.
Then, Ronaldo was left out of Ten Hag’s starting lineup for the clash with Liverpool at Old Trafford, with Marcus Rashford preferred to lead the United attack.
📋 Erik’s named our line-up to face Liverpool.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 22, 2022
Top of the rumor mill is a link with Atletico Madrid that just won’t go away. Initially surfacing over a month ago, Ronaldo continues to be linked with the La Liga side he ravaged during his nine-year spell with the club’s local derby rivals Real Madrid. However, the relationship between Atletico and Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes has often been cited as a possible catalyst for a transfer deal to materialize.
So how would a potential move to Atletico Madrid look for Cristiano Ronaldo? Would he make good with the Atleti fans, or would they grow to hate him even more? Could he provide a jolt to a notoriously lifeless attack, or would he prove dead weight?
… CR7 likes the idea and might explain his behaviour
Atlético looking at all kinds of possibilities to please Simeone…and Jorge Mendes who has an exceptional relationship with the decision makers at the club
— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) August 15, 2022
Why Cristiano Ronaldo would fit with Atletico Madrid
There are a few good reasons why it would make sense for these rumors to persist throughout the summer.
Simeone has done this before with Luis Suarez
Tactically, Cristiano Ronaldo may actually prove a decent fit for Atletico Madrid. There’s even evidence of a similar player having recent success with the club: Luis Suarez, who previously represented the colors of Atleti rivals FC Barcelona.
The Uruguayan striker, at the tail end of his career, joined Atletico Madrid at 33 years old in the summer of 2020 and spent two seasons with the club. In 67 La Liga games, Suarez scored 32 goals, including 21 goals in 32 matches in his first season at Atleti.
Diego Simeone’s side does not deploy an exhausting high press, which Ronaldo has struggled to adapt to during his time at Manchester United. At Atletico Madrid, Ronaldo could play his more relaxed style while his well-drilled teammates look to find him on the counter.
Ronaldo is familiar with La Liga
During the peak of his career, Cristiano Ronaldo rose to international stardom with Real Madrid, becoming not only a club icon but a world-famous athlete.
Ronaldo’s nine-year spell with Los Blancos saw him score an incredible 308 goals in 291 La Liga matches, proving that his style fits the Spanish top flight extremely well.
While Ronaldo has modified his game since last playing for Real Madrid in 2018, converting to a more target-man mentality to fit his physical capabilities at 37 years old, his goal-hawk mentality would still transfer well to a league that rewards quality finishers.
Ronaldo could take Joao Felix to the next level
Atletico Madrid invested heavily in young Portuguese star Joao Felix in the summer of 2019, shelling out an incredible €139 million for the Benfica star.
Now 22 years old, there have been occasional signs of improvement, but Joao Felix has yet to put it all together at Atletico Madrid. He hasn’t hit double-digits for either goals or assists in any of his three La Liga campaigns, and some have wondered whether he is set to be tabbed as a bust.
Enter Joao Felix’s Portugal teammate and captain Cristiano Ronaldo. The two have played sparingly together on the national team, but Felix’s lone international assist was finished off by Ronaldo, and two of Felix’s three international goals have come with Ronaldo on the field.
Bringing Ronaldo on could potentially see a tangible boost to Joao Felix’s fortunes at Atletico Madrid, and if he can help bring out the best of the up-and-coming star, that alone could be enough to justify the Ronaldo signing.
Why Cristiano Ronaldo would not be a fit at Atletico Madrid
And here are three reasons why a Ronaldo move to Atletico Madrid might not work so well:
Ronaldo is hated by Atleti fans after Real Madrid spell
Throughout Ronaldo’s career, he has been the enemy for Atletico Madrid fans. The 37-year-old has played against Atleti 37 times in his career, more than any other club, and he’s scored 25 goals against them, more than against anyone else besides Sevilla.
Among those memorable performances are the 2014 Champions League final, when he registered a goal and assist to help down Atletico Madrid 4-1 in extra time, as well as two Copa del Rey ousters.
He has scored two hat-tricks against Atleti in his career — first in the 2011/12 La Liga season which saw Real Madrid finish a distant 44 points ahead of them in the table, and again in the 2016/17 Champions League semifinals to send Atleti crashing out.
Famously, just prior to another Champions League hat-trick in 2018/19, Atletico beat Ronaldo’s Juventus 2-0 at the Wanda Metropolitano, to which the Portuguese star responded by holding up five fingers to the Atleti fans as a reminder of his Champions League winners medals. Three weeks later, his sensational hat-trick in the return leg saw Juve win 3-2 on aggregate and advance to the quarterfinals.
That history has led to hatred from Atletico Madrid fans, and it was on display at pre-season training this summer as supporters protested the club’s links to Ronaldo. The main club supporter group issued a scathing statement saying Ronaldo “represents the antithesis of the values that constitute the hallmarks of our Atleti, such as the effort, generosity, modesty and humility” and that the supporter group “would not accept his signing.”
The Sun released an article in which it interviewed one Atletico Madrid fan who echoed those sentiments, saying that Ronaldo is “a player who disrespected and laughed at the entire [Atletico Madrid] fanbase,” and that Ronaldo “is the complete opposite of Atletico de Madrid’s philosophy.”
Ronaldo’s personality may not mesh at Atletico
At 37 years old, there’s a perception surrounding Ronaldo that he is a self-absorbed, ego-filled diva, who does not always react well when things are not going his way.
Just this preseason, the Portuguese international reportedly left Old Trafford early after being taken out at halftime against Rayo Vallecano. New Man United boss Erik ten Hag was less than pleased with Ronaldo’s premature departure, calling it “unacceptable” in comments to the media.
Atletico Madrid is a well-oiled machine, built on hard work, team spirit, and sacrifice. A player with Ronaldo’s personality might prove a difficult fit, though manager Diego Simeone is a strong-willed character in his own right, and is capable of keeping a lid on any antics.
Atletico already have a center forward
While the aforementioned tactical meshing of Ronaldo at Atletico Madrid could work out, there’s one problem: The club already has a similar player in Alvaro Morata.
The 29-year-old Spanish international returned from his two-year loan at Juventus this summer and has enjoyed a positive pre-season, scoring a hat-trick against his old Italian club in their final summer tuneup.
The two players are similar in style, and it would be hard to fit both into the starting lineup at the same time with one of them likely needing to accept a backup role.
What did Diego Simeone say about Cristiano Ronaldo?
The Atletico Madrid boss would not be drawn on the resurfaced Ronaldo rumors ahead of his club’s season opener at Getafe. However, the Argentine also did little to quell the rumors, deciding to deflect questions instead of outright denying the rumors.
“You [media] need to work. As for me, I think about Getafe, I think about the players who are here inside and the only thing that matters to me and I’m concerned about is that,” Simeone said.
When pressed further on the subject, he continued to deflect. “[Monday] we play against Getafe, an important match for the team. And from there we will start in a league that will be very tough with teams that have been reinforced very well, teams that continue to grow.
“The truth is that it will be a season that will find us in new situations. The only thing that concerns me is that.”