Cristiano Ronaldo’s Manchester United is not returning easily
It is getting harder every day to be a romantic about world football.
The competitive equilibrium of the sport continues to solidify in a handful of ultra clubs, funded by petrostats, new money oligarchs and greedy Americans who shudder when you look at them ankle-deep.
Now you have Cristiano Ronaldo, whose return to Manchester United, where he won the Premier League three times, the Champions League once, and thrived to At worst a top five player of all time, should be as triumphant as returnees can get.
Instead, it’s hard to feel overly enthusiastic.
Let’s shave emotions for a second. Here are the facts. In 2019, Ronaldo admitted in court documents that Kathryn Mayorga, a woman who had agreed to be attributed through her attorneys, paid $ 375,000 in 2010 to settle allegations of sexually abusing her in Las Vegas in 2009. Las Vegas prosecutors refused to accept the allegations – which is not the same as acquitting Ronaldo – because they “cannot be beyond doubt”. Another lawsuit from Mayorga about the settlement is still open.
In addition, two women, one of whom later withdrew her lawsuit, accused Ronaldo and another man of raping her in London in 2005. The UK authorities found that there was “insufficient evidence” to indict Ronaldo and the case was closed.
The presumption of innocence is fundamental to the judicial system around the world. Ronaldo remains a free man, and for all we know, he should be. Overall, these allegations did not meet the threshold for punishment by the legal system.
That doesn’t make them any more comfortable. Victims don’t often invent sexual assault. Statistics showed this at the time of Mayorga’s allegation, and they still do today. That’s when victims even report it.
It’s harder to appreciate players like Ronaldo, who can steer the abstract chaos of football at their will when the underside is constantly exposed.
We’re still trying, almost instinctively, because everything else about this story is exciting. The youngest of four children, Ronaldo grew up in poverty with an alcoholic father and made it to the Sporting Lisbon first team in his native Portugal at the age of 16 at the bottom of United’s Stars in a friendly that secretly served as an audition.
Upon signing, Ronaldo inherited United’s iconic number 7 jersey and won the first of his five Ballons d’Or as World Footballer of the Year in 2008 while becoming one of the most famous athletes in the world.
He made blockbuster transfers to Real Madrid in 2009 and to Juventus in 2018, where he continued to collect important trophies and cement his legacy as one of the greatest players of all time, but he never lost his eye for United. Ronaldo honors Ferguson when he retired in 2013. He publicly laughed at the idea of playing for United’s arch-rivals Manchester City – although he might have been more open to it this summer.
Now he’s returning to where he was named PFA Premier League Team of the Year with his international teammate Bruno Fernandes, who was named PFA Premier League Team of the Year last season, and former Real Madrid teammate Raphaël Varane, who signed with the Red Devils earlier this month, as well tangy summer signature Jadon Sancho. It’s not exactly a perfect fit, but it will be exciting to see and those homecomers to the sport are few and far between.
None of this disturbs the overall picture. Aside from his undisputed greatness, it’s not easy for a neutral to demonize Ronaldo, who blatantly tells his teammates how he really feels, cool corporate on his social media channels and owner of a goal celebration to be proud of. me even by goal celebration standards. Add in the legal ugliness and it’s even more annoying.
A move to City would have unsettled a whole fan base. A move to Paris Saint-Germain, where Lionel Messi is already there and Kylian Mbappé may soon be gone, would have been infinitely fascinating and would have further accelerated the callous centralization of power in football.
After all, this move to Manchester United offers a familiar environment in which the 36-year-old can end his brilliant European career.
That’s really all it offers. Too much has happened since he left to think about much more.