After 12 years of winning a dozen or more major trophies and breaking a number of records, Cristiano Ronaldo will return to the place where he established himself as one of the best players of this and every generation, leaving Juventus to close Manchester United back on a two-year deal.
The team confirmed Ronaldo’s return on Friday said the deal was “subject to personal conditions, visas and medical conditions being agreed”. The rush of people who signed up to read the announcement crashed the Manchester United website.
A reunion that many United fans have longed for for much of the past decade came about at the last minute, thanks in part to the public and private interventions of several former Ronaldo teammates, his longtime mentor Alex Ferguson and his colleague with the Portuguese National team and now United, Bruno Fernandes.
On Thursday night, it appeared that Ronaldo would be returning to Manchester – but playing for the team across town. He had informed Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri that he had no intention of playing for the team again while his agent Jorge Mendes tried to negotiate a salary package with reigning Premier League champions Manchester City .
City’s appetite for business, however, was lukewarm at best; the impetus had all come from Ronaldo’s representatives. City refused to pay Juventus a fee for a player they were keen to discharge in order to cut costs in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. City’s best offer was a swap deal with Raheem Sterling, the English striker that Juventus turned down. On Friday morning, the club distanced themselves from signing Ronaldo.
However, United had been spurred on by the thought that one of its most popular alumni would be playing for a direct rival. Several former United players, including Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney, as well as Ferguson, turned either privately or publicly to urge Ronaldo not to forget where in northwest England his loyalty lies.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the club’s coach, spoke glowingly about Ronaldo in a media conference on Friday. “He knows we’re always here,” said Solskjaer.
The club agreed with Ronaldo’s representatives on a salary package for the next two seasons with the permission of its owners, the Glazer family, and eventually offered Juventus a fee that could rise to almost $ 40 million depending on the 36-year-old’s success with the team during their second stint.
When the details were finalized, Ronaldo could only wait. He was pictured on the previous Friday while boarding a private jet near Turin, Italy, where Juventus is based. His destination was not yet known at the time. A few hours later, the United fans, his former teammates and his current manager headed to the only place he could: home.