The five clubs Cristiano Ronaldo could join in the January transfer window as Man Utd exit talk gathers pace

Manchester United striker Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo looks set to leave Manchester United after the World Cup – but where will he be playing his football in 2023?

Ronaldo scored 24 goals in all competitions last season but has fallen out of favour under Erik ten Hag, starting just one Premier League game in 2022/23.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Ten Hag is willing to let the 37-year-old leave in January if a suitable offer arrives.

We’ve taken a look at five clubs that Ronaldo could potentially move to during the January transfer window.

Bayern Munich

Despite selling Robert Lewandowski to Barcelona in the summer transfer window, Bayern Munich ultimately decided against a move for Ronaldo and have since played Sadio Mane through the middle.

“When you now see how our attack is equipped – even without Robert Lewandowski – it’s just difficult from a sporting and financial point of view,” sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic told BILD’s Phrasenmaher podcast when asked why they didn’t sign Ronaldo.

“We have eight players for four positions upfront. We have established top players who are in the prime of their footballing age. We have talent that we want to give playing time too, so we all voted to go through with our plan.

“So that (signing Ronaldo) was out of question for us. We are very happy with how we’re equipped.”

Bayern have since had a difficult start to the season and are currently third in the Bundesliga, while Mane has been criticised for his performances.

According to El Nacional, they regret passing up the chance to sign the five-time Ballon d’Or winner in the summer and could make a bid for him in January.

Ronaldo would help fill the void left by Lewandowski’s departure and give Julian Nagelsmann’s side an attacking focal point.

Having won three Premier League titles, two La Liga titles and two Serie A titles, the 37-year-old would also love to add a Bundesliga title to his collection.

Borussia Dortmund

While we’re on the subject of the Bundesliga…

Borussia Dortmund sold Erling Haaland to Manchester City in the summer and replaced him with Karim Adeyemi and Sebastien Haller.

Adeyemi is yet to score in the Bundesliga while Haller was diagnosed with a testicular tumour after feeling unwell in pre-season training. Dortmund have been lacking goals this season and Jude Bellingham and Marco Reus are currently their top goalscorers with three goals each.

Ronaldo would represent a short-term fix for Dortmund but would add some firepower to the squad and help them move up the table.

“I love this player, it’s certainly a charming idea to see Cristiano Ronaldo play at Signal Iduna Park,” Dortmund CEO Hans Joachim Watzke said in August.

The striker would have to significantly reduce his wage demands in order to join Dortmund but they will be able to offer him Champions League football and regular minutes. 

Man Utd striker Cristiano Ronaldo and manager Erik ten Hag

Napoli

A return to Italy, where Ronaldo previously spent three seasons with Juventus, is another option that he could consider in January.

The striker scored 81 goals in 98 league appearances for Juventus, winning the Serie A Player of the Year award in both 2019 and 2020.

Jorge Mendes has a good relationship with Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentiis and offered his client to the Serie A side in the summer. There were strong reports of a possible swap deal involving Victor Osimhen but that failed to materialise. 

Napoli, who are currently at the top of Serie A, have since distanced themselves from rumours linking themselves with Ronaldo.

But adding the 37-year-old to their squad in January could give them an extra boost as they look for their first Serie A title since the days of Diego Maradona.

The Portugal international would suit the slower pace of Serie A and also relish the challenge of matching Maradona’s achievements in Naples.

Sporting Lisbon

While Ronaldo’s second spell at United hasn’t gone to plan, he could make a return to another one of his former clubs in 2023.

The forward came through the academy at Sporting and scored five goals in 31 first-team appearances before leaving for United at the age of 18 in 2003.

He may feel like he has some unfinished business at Sporting after spending just one solitary season in their first team and his mum has made no secret of her desire to see Ronaldo return to the Portuguese side.

“Ronaldo has to come back here (to Sporting),” Dolores Aveiro told the ADN de Leao podcast in 2021. “If it were my choice, he would already be here.

“He likes to watch Sporting games. I’ve already told him: ‘Son, before I die, I want to see you return to Sporting’. He says: ‘Let’s see.'”

Hugo Viana, a former team-mate of Ronaldo’s and now the sporting director at Sporting, reportedly tried to convince the 37-year-old to return to his boyhood club during the summer transfer window.

But The Times reported that manager Ruben Amorim had reservations about signing Ronaldo and threatened to walk out on the club if the forward was bought against his wishes.

A move for Ronaldo could be reignited in January if Amorim, who is reportedly at the top of Wolves’ shortlist of managers to replace Bruno Lage, moves on.

Al-Hilal

While several clubs were linked with Ronaldo, Al Hilal were the only club to make a formal approach for him during the summer transfer window.

It is believed the Saudi Arabian side were willing to pay United a £25m transfer fee, while offering the 37-year-old a huge two-year contract worth £2million-a-week.

Ronaldo reportedly rejected the offer as he was wants to join a club that are competing in the Champions League but Al-Hilal president Fahad ben Nafel has insisted that the move only fell through due to a transfer ban.

“Yes, we negotiated with Ronaldo,” he told the Thamanya YouTube channel. “The problem was not in the money or the principle.

“Al-Hilal is able to bring in the stars of the world, but it was in the decision of the Sports Arbitration Center that prevented us from registering the players.

“We did not stop negotiating with the players despite the decision to ban, but we were delaying entering the final stage of the negotiations until the ban was lifted.”

If Ronaldo wins the World Cup with Portugal in December, he could be tempted to accept the offer from Al-Hilal and see out his playing career in Saudi Arabia.

READ MORE: Five positions that Erik ten Hag must prioritise in the January transfer window after Manchester derby humiliation