SINGAPORE — The new English Premier League (EPL) season is set to kick off early Saturday morning (6 August), with teams ready to start their title push by parading their highly-touted new signings.
But there is one mega-transfer that has been dead in the water for almost the entire pre-season, and it is threatening to boil over into a showdown between player, manager and the club board. We're talking, of course, about Cristiano Ronaldo demanding to take his incredible talents away from Manchester United.
While United have so far insisted that their prized asset is not for sale, Ronaldo has skipped much of the pre-season build-up, as new manager Erik ten Hag tries to rebuilt the side after a dreadful 2021/22 EPL season in which they finished a lowly sixth.
Yet, a curious thing has happened, even as Ronaldo is being linked to several top European clubs: no club actually wants the five-time Fifa Player of the Year. Not Chelsea. Not Bayern Munich. Not mega-rich Paris Saint Germain. And certainly not Atletico Madrid, whose fans had unfurled a banner screaming "CR7 not welcome!"
Singapore's football journalist Ash Hashim (Futbolita), who is also a Fifa-certified player agent, feels that Ronaldo's camp must not have expected such a development, which has thrown a spanner in the works on his intention to leave United.
Speaking on Yahoo News Singapore's new "Footballing Weekly" show, she said, "Even at 37 years old, clubs would have been knocking on his door, lining up to offer him the best deal to sign up for the next season.
"But I think word has gotten out, after what happened in Man United last season, that Ronaldo is the kind of player that does not go well with a team-oriented game that top teams nowadays emphasise on. And they won't want to disrupt the dressing room by getting someone who wants it to be all about 'me, me, me'."
Not a lot of support for Ronaldo on Man United fan forums
Agreeing with Ash, football columnist Neil Humphreys said that even a cursory glance at Man United online forums show that there is not a lot of support from the United fans on wanting their one-time hero to stay on.
"There were many balanced and objective analysis by the fans saying that this man clearly doesn't want to be at the club, he's going to be 38, he doesn't fit into the modern pressing game," he said during the "Footballing Weekly" show.
"To me, he's slightly a victim of his own success. He should have retired a few years earlier, but through sports science, proper diet and his own sheer will to succeed, he is somehow still playing at a high level. And so he is not willing to give it up yet."
How Man United and Ronaldo can reach a solution to their impasse will be much scrutinised in the coming weeks, before the transfer window shuts at the end of the month. Meanwhile, the Red Devils begin their first league season under ten Hag with a home tie against Brighton on Sunday, and they will be eager to get back on the road to success under the Dutchman.
Whether Ronaldo will join the team is still anyone's guess.
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