Gary Neville reckons Cristiano Ronaldo will leave Man Utd red-faced given his exploits over the next six months amid a two-part prediction on where the striker’s future lays.
Ronaldo is officially a free agent after seeing his second stint at Old Trafford terminated by mutual consent. The Portuguese icon, 37, always looked a poor fit for Erik ten Hag on paper. Following an ill-advised and explosive interview with TalkTV, it took the Dutchman less than six months to turf Ronaldo out.
His departure has since turned up two intriguing questions: Who will replace Ronaldo at Manchester United and where will he sign next.
On the former, an agreement in principle has reportedly been agreed with PSV Eindhoven’s Cody Gakpo.
The Netherlands international has been on United’s radar since the summer, though Liverpool appear to be readying an eye-catching hijack.
Regarding Ronaldo, CBS Sports and the Guardian reported his first formal offer has been received and it’s certainly a lucrative one.
Ronaldo has been offered a three-year deal by Saudi Arabian side Al-Nassr worth $75million per year (almost £1.2million per week).
Talks were claimed to be ‘relatively advanced’, though Gary Neville seems to think that might be a red herring.
Ronaldo not finished with the Champions League yet
Speaking to Sky Sports, Neville reckons Ronaldo will instead have his sights set on joining a top European club who’ll give him the chance to lift his sixth Champions League trophy.
Neville stated Ronaldo has one big push left in him and predicted he’ll score “15 or 20 goals” over the next six months if he gets a short-term move to one of Europe’s elite.
Such a scenario will leave everyone in Manchester cursing the decision to let Ronaldo leave, reckons Neville. Then, come season’s end, Ronaldo will consider a more financially lucrative final act in his career in a country like Saudi Arabia or the USA.
“I think Cristiano Ronaldo is going to be looking for a top club on a four-month or five-month contract where he can go in and do a brilliant cameo role at the very elite of European football,” said Neville.
“That’s what I think his priority would be – to stay in the Champions League, to stay at the very top and prove that what happened at Manchester United wasn’t right.
“I think he’s got four or five great months in him somewhere where he’ll go in and score 15 or 20 goals in that period.
“Everybody in Manchester will say ‘why didn’t we keep him?’ and people in the Premier League will as well.
“But he’s got that in him and I would say that would be his priority. I think he’ll get to the end of the season and then think about the next two years and what his last football project might look like.
“Is it in the US? Is it in the Middle East? Is it somewhere else in Europe where he’s not played before?
“I hope he does really well wherever he goes. It didn’t work out in Manchester in the end, but it was the right thing for the club to do in breaking ties and it was the right thing for Cristiano to do.”
Who’ll sign Ronaldo then?
The obvious club for Ronaldo that fits Neville’s prediction is Real Madrid.
Ronaldo is an icon at the Bernabeu and Real regularly go deep in the UCL and more often than not, win the entire competition.
However, Real have shown they are more than capable of lifting the game’s top honours without Ronaldo. Indeed, they completed a LaLiga and Champions League double last season without Ronaldo.
What’s more, it’s difficult to see Ronaldo and current Ballon d’Or holder, Karim Benzema, fitting into the same eleven. Both can only play up front and have a combined age of 71.
Even worse for those hoping to see Ronaldo back at Real, Marca report Carlo Ancelotti isn’t on board with bringing Ronaldo back, even though club president Florentino Perez might be.
Another avenue that’s been mentioned is a return to Sporting Lisbon. However, the club Ronaldo made his professional debut for finished third in their Champions League group, meaning they’ll be in the Europa League post-Christmas.
As such, there doesn’t appear to be an obvious fit for Ronaldo from those still in the UCL.
The 37-year-old may therefore be banking on an injury to a club’s star centre-forward between now and January 31. Either that, or a superb World Cup showing to rouse new suitors.