Cristiano Ronaldo is once again being linked with a shock summer move to Chelsea.
After initial rumours of an intra-Premier League move at the weekend were followed by talk that Ronaldo had asked to leave United this summer should an offer come in for him, this is now a story that should be taken seriously.
Chelsea signing Cristiano Ronaldo would be a seismic transfer, even given his advanced age. But is it something that new Chelsea owner Todd Boehly should actively pursue? We have a look at the pros and cons of the deal:
|Chelsea summer transfer odds 22/23: To sign for before 3rd September||Sky Bet|
|Frenkie de Jong||8/11|
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Pro: Cristiano Ronaldo scores goals
Chelsea scored 76 times in the Premier League last season, which was the third-most in the division but was a massive 18 fewer than second-place Liverpool and only 7 ahead of Spurs. Chelsea need to close the gap to City and Liverpool, and so they need more goals.
And Cristiano Ronaldo scores goals.
Cristiano Ronaldo is the greatest goalscorer in the history of Real Madrid, the Champions League, the Portuguese national team and men’s international football in general.
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored goals in double figures for 17 consecutive seasons, and he’s scored 20+ for 16 in a row. He once went six straight seasons scoring more than 50 goals.
It’s impossible to really emphasise just how many goals Cristiano Ronaldo scores in relation to almost everyone else in world football (the exception being Lionel Messi, one of the literal three greatest players of all-time).
Even playing as poorly as he has in nearly two decades for the worst Manchester United side in 30+ years, he still scored 24 goals. Chelsea haven’t had anyone score that many goals in a single season since Didier Drogba bagged 37 goals in 2009/10, over a decade ago.
Con: Cristiano Ronaldo is 37 years old
Chelsea have a really good young side (not as good as it could have been had they not short-sightedly sold lots of their promising young players with no buy-back clauses a year ago), but with the exception of Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Edouard Mendy, N’Golo Kanté and Mateo Kovacic, their key players are 25 years old or younger.
This is ideal for new owner Todd Boehly, who will want to stamp his own personality onto the Chelsea project and the best way to do that is to cultivate a young squad that can grow together, as Roman Abramovich did (with help from José Mourinho) back in the mid-2000’s.
To that end, making goalscoring (kind of one of the most important parts of a team) revolving around a man closer to 40 than 30, is probably not a wise idea. Especially as the side will already be carrying one 37 year old (Thiago Silva) in big games this season. Both Ronaldo and Silva will be 38 before the 2022/23 season ends, that’s not ideal.
Pro: Cristiano Ronaldo has a massive media profile
Chelsea FC have 49 million Facebook followers, 21 million Twitter followers and 36 million Instagram followers. Impressive, but to quote a ridiculous man those are rookie numbers in this racket. You gotta pump those numbers up.
Cristiano Ronaldo has 151 million Facebook followers, 101 million Twitter followers and 463 million Instagram followers. A social media Megalodon, there isn’t an athlete around who can match Cristiano’s visibility and pull.
One reflection of Ronaldo’s media profile is the viciousness with which some fans turned on Harry Maguire for ‘liking’ a negative story on Instagram.
The post has since been ‘unliked’, suggesting it could have been accidental. But the episode conveys just how strongly Ronaldo’s fanbase feels about the player (if not also how much of a pariah Maguire has become in certain sections).
Back to on-field matters, he’s a Nike athlete, and Chelsea wears Nike shirts. It’s a marketing match made in heaven as Nike would have the green light to go All Blue Everything pushing Cristiano everywhere in their new Chelsea kits, training kits, t-shirts, socks, hats, mugs, etc. etc.
Todd Boehly is not Roman Abramovich; he wants to make money. Cristiano Ronaldo makes money and Todd Boehly knows that very well.
Con: Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t press
Chelsea won possession in the attacking third 181 times last season, which is up on the 165 times they managed it the season before despite carrying Romelu Lukaku who obviously does not press much; the Belgian won possession in the attacking third 0.45 times per-90 minutes across 2021/22, which is somehow less than 33 year-old defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic’s 0.46.
|Cristiano Ronaldo transfer specials: To sign for before 3rd September||Sky Bet|
|To stay at Manchester United||4/9|
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Cristiano Ronaldo fares a bit better here, winning possession in the attacking third 0.51 times per-90. However thirteen Manchester United and Chelsea players (with at least 1,200 minutes played) won the ball back more times per-90 in 2021/22.
That list includes defensive midfielders Fred (0.53) and N’Golo Kanté (0.56), flighty wingers Jadon Sancho (0.66) and Christian Pulisic (0.98) and even, and you really will not believe this: Paul Pogba (0.8 possessions won in the attacking third per-90 minutes). Yes, that’s right, even the most laid back Gallic man in football today presses more than ROnaldo.
Just as Romelu Lukaku looked to be a square peg in a round hole off the ball, so too will Cristiano Ronaldo. Sure, he’s leaner and fitter than Lukaku but he’s also eight years older and physically incapable of pressing for even one full game. He can’t handle the defensive side of Tuchel-ball.
Chelsea already took a massive financial loss to ditch Lukaku, do they really want to risk doing the same with Cristiano Ronaldo? And remember, when you make a mistake with Cristiano Ronaldo the whole world will be watching. Everyone will see, even in America. Does Todd Boehly really want that headache?
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Pro: A huge psychological blow to Manchester United
Chelsea haven’t won the Premier League since 2017, nor have they really come close. 2021/22 was meant to be the year they stepped up to challenge Manchester City (who have won four of the five titles since Chelsea’s last) but they failed to do so.
That is to say: Chelsea’s first priority in the league has to be securing that third spot, they need to be looking over their shoulder at those sides behind them perhaps even more than they gaze aspirationally at City and Liverpool ahead of them.
To that end, signing Cristiano Ronaldo would allow Chelsea to strike a huge psychological blow against one of those sides on their tail: Manchester United. The Red Devils are rebuilding but will be aiming to at the very least surpass Chelsea and finish third.
United have the cash to make moves and in Erik ten Hag they have an elite coach as well. What better thing could Chelsea fans ask for than a transfer that crushes United fans, fans who for the last decade consoled themselves with the fantasy that Cristiano loved them.
Sure, he went to Real Madrid to follow his dream, but he still had love for United. And of course the narrative surrounding his return to Old Trafford last season, where his old team-mates called him and “convinced him” to turn down Manchester City and choose United.
It all fed into the club’s mystique that they were still a relevant force in world football. Nothing could puncture that harder than Cristiano leaving for a Premier League rival just to stay in the Champions League.
|Man Utd summer transfer odds 22/23: To sign for before 3rd September
|Frenkie de Jong||3/1|
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Con: Cristiano Ronaldo is a club-killer
For 12 years at Manchester United and Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo played with an amazing midfield and a selfless no. 9 who was happy to cede goalscoring duties to him.
It’s no exaggeration to say that without Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Anderson, Wayne Rooney, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Casemiro, Mesut Ozil and Karim Benzema… Cristiano doesn’t score the goals he did.
Cristiano left Real Madrid for Juventus in 2018. Juve had won seven Serie A titles in a row – their most recent one with 95 points and 86 goals scored – but most of all they wanted the Champions League having lost in the 2015 and 2017 finals.
They even had a selfless striker in the Rooney/Benzema mould: Alvaro Morata had already played foil to Ronaldo at Real Madrid and did so again at Juve, but the midfield was less than stellar and as such, so was the football.
Ronaldo still scored goals, but whereas with Madrid and United those goals elevated the side here they were like a black hole. With no elite midfield to constantly conjure chances, Cristiano cannibalised the teams shots and goals (the second highest scorer in his three seasons there never bagged more than 11 goals) and while he delivered 101 goals in 134 games it was at the expense of everyone else.
They won Serie A in his first year, but by his second the dominance was already fading. They barely scraped the Scudetto, losing three of their last four games and clinging on to a one point lead to be crowned champions. From 90 points with 70 goals in 2018/19 to 83 points with 76 goals in 2019/20 to a lowly 78 points and 77 goals plus a fourth place finish in 2020/21; Ronaldo took Juve so far backwards that they lost their stranglehold on the Serie A title for the first time in a decade.
All the while Juve went through three different coaches (Max Allegri, Maurizio Sarri and finally Andrea Pirlo), none of which could ever seem to fashion a way to get Juve as a team thriving simultaneously with Cristiano the player.
Cristiano Ronaldo's 2009/10 season by numbers:
◉ 35 games
◉ 33 goals
◉ 7 assists
The only time he has ever worn the No.9 shirt. https://t.co/aihNb5kThC
— Squawka (@Squawka) July 4, 2022
Then he joined Manchester United, and the pattern repeated itself.
In 2020/21, United had four players notch in the double figures with Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford both clearing 20 on the season. In 2021/22, only Fernandes with 10 goals joined Cristiano in bagging double figures.
From finishing second with 74 points and 73 goals to finishing sixth with 56 points and 57 goals, Ronaldo’s arrival saw United lose all the identity they had been building and spiral out of control. At the start of the season they were a side with the potential to truly challenge for the title, then they signed Ronaldo instead of a defensive midfielder and almost instantly they began crumbling. The cracks that their excellent, dynamic, energetic players had been papering over were suddenly fracturing wide enough to be seen from space.
Now, this wasn’t all Ronaldo’s fault of course, but his presence actively prevented Ole Gunnar Solskjaer from retreating to his tried and tested counter-attacking system in big games. And when Ralf Rangnick eventually took charge, he couldn’t implement his pressing system because, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t press.
Ronaldo ran through three managers in three seasons at Juve, while at United he saw off three coaches in one season. Erik ten Hag would be his fourth coach and the Portuguese hasn’t even been at United for a full year yet.
At this stage of his career with the physical and tactical limitations he has: Cristiano Ronaldo is still a deadly goalscorer when the ball is in the box, for sure, but without a world-class creative midfield and a selfless no. 9 to play off he is also a club-killer and a coach-killer.
Do Chelsea really want that kind of headache as they’re trying to start anew under Todd Boehly?