“Today in football we do not know what will happen. Maybe tomorrow Cristiano Ronaldo wakes up and says I want to go play elsewhere,” Leonardo said.
“Who can buy him? It's a closed circle. PSG enters this circle. Usually it is about opportunities, situations.
“The transfer window, we have to prepare for it and that's what we do. We have our priorities, our lists, but something unforeseen can happen.”
While this may be brushed off as mere speculation, Leonardo’s words carry slightly more weight given the circumstances around which they were uttered: it was not an independent media house posing the question about the possible acquisition of Ronaldo, but rather, it was brought to light in an in-house interview conducted on PSG TV, with the club no doubt having approved the questions before airing the show.
Juventus will certainly refuse to entertain such ludicrous thoughts, wouldn’t they? As one of the world’s most prized players, Ronaldo is the focal point of the Bianconeri attack, a multiple record-breaking and title-winning superstar and the glorified missing piece of the Champions League winning puzzle, who will unquestioningly see out his contract in Italy, considering the calibre of the club he joined, and the great lengths they went into prizing him so unexpectedly away from Real Madrid, surely?
At first glance, yes. Yet a closer look reveals several reasons why a seemingly incredulous move to France may just be of benefit for all parties involved.
The PSG project has been in motion for many years, as the perpetual domestic league winners have their sights set on, above all, one iconic trophy: the coveted UEFA Champions League. After three consecutive Round of 16 exits, Les Parisiens went agonisingly close to finally realising their distant dream this year, with Bayern Munich’s Kingsley Coman haunting his ex-employers as his goal proved the difference in August’s final.
Last season’s European campaign helped overcome a major mental stumbling block for the Paris club, who had previously failed to reach the final four in the competition, proving they have the capability of reaching the business end of the tournament. Why not, then, add a five-time winner of the competition and perennial goalscoring machine in Ronaldo to their ranks?
As alluded to in Leonardo’s statement, there are very few clubs that can afford Ronaldo’s hefty fee and wages, yet PSG are definitely one of them, and the club could yet receive a further cash injection next summer to boost their pursuit of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
It’s no secret that Spanish heavyweights Real Madrid are long-time admirers of current PSG star Kylian Mbappe, with their non-existent spending this past summer transfer window, for the first time since 1980, indicating that another Galactico could arrive next year. Mbappe fits the bill perfectly, with PSG set to receive a monstrous amount in the proposed sale, paving the way for Ronaldo’s possible arrival.
For Ronaldo himself, even at 35, he is still playing at the highest level, is a menace for opposition defenders and demands perfection from his teammates, helping to raise their game and individual performances. However, the current Juventus crop is a far cry from the superstars he was surrounded by in Madrid. Questions have been asked about the mentality of this Juventus team, the quality of his teammates and how many more times he needs to once again be called upon to single-handedly step up and save his side.
For the first time in years, Juventus claiming this season’s Scudetto does not seem like a forgone conclusion, with the club under reconstruction with the guidance of new coach Andrea Pirlo. Despite being brought in to help the club’s bid for elusive European glory, Juventus have fallen flat in the continent’s premier club competition, falling short in the quarter-final and Round of 16 in the two years since Ronaldo’s arrival, and early signs are that a strong continental campaign in this year’s competition seems unrealistic, taking into account the club’s new direction, philosophy and changes under their new coach.
At this stage of career, Ronaldo wouldn’t want to be part of a club’s rebuilding phase – he is entering the twilight of his career, and the chances of adding to his numerous titles are very quickly diminishing.
A last European swansong in Paris would therefore make perfect sense: an almost guaranteed domestic trophy from yet another league to add to his already-bulging cabinet, the ultimate large-scale pay-out before retirement and the chance of one final shot at Champions League glory with a club that has now proven it can go all the way.
Finally, for the third part in this trifecta, Ronaldo’s departure would tick most boxes for the Bianconeri. Granted, they would lose a talisman, a global icon who has done almost as much in front of goal in carrying the team than he has off it, from a marketing perspective. Yet his services are far from cheap – his reported €31m annual salary is almost a whopping four times as much as the club’s second-highest paid player Matthijs De Ligt, who takes home a comparatively paltry €8m.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has spared very few, not least cash-strapped Juventus who recorded an annual €89.7m loss for the year ending June 30, 2020. Recouping some of the €100m the club paid Madrid by selling Ronaldo before the expiry of his contract in 2022 will go some way in balancing the club’s books, while no doubt providing the means to add much-needed recruits Pirlo desires as he builds a new Juventus dynasty.
As impressive and outstanding as he is, leading this new-look Juventus to immediate continental glory on his own is a near-impossible task, therefore with an eye already on the future, Juventus might be better off cashing in on their star for the greater good in years to come.
In the coming days and weeks, rumours will undoubtedly be quashed, and transfer talks dismissed – Ronaldo will most probably publicly display his happiness in Turin, while the club will allude to the length of his contract with the Old lady. What cannot be denied though, is that through Leonardo’s comments, PSG have planted a seed.
We will have to wait until summer next year to see whether or not that seed blossoms into fruition.