The arrival of a reigning Ballon d’Or and contender for the title of G.O.A.T. has been called the biggest signing since Diego Maradona to Napoli or the original Ronaldo to Inter. Cristiano Ronaldo brings attention, respect and prestige to Juventus and consequently all of Serie A.
However, I’m concerned at these comparisons and what they really mean. The reason Maradona is still treated as a deity in the streets of Naples is the club made no real impact before his arrival, managing at best two editions of the Coppa Italia. After El Pibe de Oro’s arrival for a record fee in 1984, they won two Serie A titles, the UEFA Cup and the Italian Super Cup.
This Juventus cannot be compared to that. They have reached the Champions League Final twice in the last four seasons, won an all-time record seven consecutive Scudetti and four domestic doubles on the trot. CR7 makes an already great team even stronger, but is not their saviour the same way Maradona was at Napoli. To view them in that light is at best condescending, at worst downright insulting.
Serie A doesn’t generally command the star names it used to because financially the clubs are too far behind La Liga and Premier League, so can’t compete on the market. Getting a Ballon d’Or winner for €100m feels like a bargain in an age when Virgil van Dijk cost €79m and Lazio want €150m for Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.
People are saying Ronaldo’s arrival means Serie A is given new credibility and respect, with Juventus elevated to the same plane as Real Madrid and Barcelona. My concern is that, in a way, it proves the exact opposite. Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid because he was bored of winning three Champions League titles in a row and still getting unfavourably compared to Lionel Messi. This duel to be the GOAT is getting irritating, so while Messi would never leave the Blaugrana, CR7 believes he can prove himself the best by winning in Europe even in a ‘weaker’ team, one that is famous for not lifting the trophy for 23 years. That is not showing respect to Juventus or its history. That is belittling it.
Ronaldo was frustrated at being just one of the star names at the Bernabeu, whereas he has absolute domination of the narrative in Turin and Italy. His ego is so big that he demands the same salary as Messi, wants to win at Juventus not so he can end the Bianconeri’s Champions League curse, but simply to prove he is the decisive factor.
When Real Madrid offered him that €100m release clause, there’s a reason they excluded clubs like Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Manchester City. They expected him to see out his autumn years in China or Major League Soccer, so joining another Champions League contender is one massive insult to Florentino Perez.
I’m sure Juventus fans won’t care one bit if the motives are condescending, as long as they get to lift the Champions League trophy at last and perhaps match the Inter Treble. Serie A clubs and supporters won’t mind either if Ronaldo brings increased revenue, media coverage and general respect to the league. Just don’t pretend Cristiano Ronaldo is fuelled by anything other than self-serving ego.