September 10, 2021 | SPORTS | By Will Gerash | Photo by Sierra Romero
At the tail end of what has potentially been the most hectic and monumental transfer window to date — one that will surely alter the landscape of the soccer world for years to come — Cristiano Ronaldo has signed a two-year deal with his former club, Manchester United. This comes 12 years after his initial departure.
Ronaldo’s move comes just a few weeks after fellow soccer legend Lionel Messi signed with French super-club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). This was another decision that sent shock waves around the football community after his former club, Barcelona, failed to renew the contract of the Argentinian due to financial obstacles.
PSG also lured in the likes of veteran Spanish center-back Sergio Ramos, EURO 2020 Player of the Tournament Gianluigi Donnoruma, and former Liverpool and Dutch star midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum.
The list goes on. While PSG’s list of star acquisitions is difficult to compete with, Manchester United boasted the additions of English star-boy Jadon Sancho and staunch French center back Raphael Varane, all in addition to the aforementioned Portuguese talisman.
Although Messi’s transfer is significant in the context of the Champions League, PSG still faces little competition in domestic play, as the French Ligue 1 has been unequivocally dominated by the Parisians in recent years.
In this sense, the signing of Ronaldo is of greater significance, as a slowly improving Manchester United side now has a better chance of regaining their reign of the English Premier League (EPL).
The EPL is arguably the most talented and competitive league in the world, with clubs like Manchester City defending the English title, along with the winners of the 2019-20 season Liverpool, UEFA Champions League (UCL) title defenders Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and even dark horse teams like Leicester City hoping to make a run for the trophy.
At the age of 36, Ronaldo once again cemented his legendary status alongside Messi as one of this generation’s most illustrious players. He became the men’s all-time leader in international goals, netting two towering headers in stoppage time to give Portugal the 2-1 win over Ireland in a world-cup qualifier. Despite his age, his quality has remained relatively consistent.
This is a great sign for Manchester United fans as this seems to be their chance to reclaim EPL supremacy for the first time since 2011. Even more ambitious but perhaps not outside of the realm of possibility, they could win the UCL for the first time since 2008, when Ronaldo scored in the final for United against Chelsea.
Commenting on whether the signing of Ronaldo makes United the favorites to win the Premier League, Max Morrell ’24, an avid Chelsea supporter, said, “Personally, I do not. I think a lot of teams recently have had a lot of good signings, surely none as good as Ronaldo, but everybody’s adding new talent to their roster.”
He cited Chelsea’s recent acquisition of Romelu Lukaku, who Morrell describes as “a solid, natural number nine who can hold the ball up and play it off.” Morrell boasts a Premier League top six prediction of Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham, Liverpool, and Leicester, in that order.
When asked about whether the move makes United legitimate contenders or if the club was simply chasing a fleeting sense of nostalgia, Morrell said, “A mixture of both. Ronaldo’s not in top form, but he’s in very good form.” He added, “I think United jumped on it last second because they realized with Ronaldo’s wishes to return to the EPL, they had a great chance of signing him because of that nostalgia you mentioned.”
When asked the same question, Sergio Hernandez ’24 responded: “He is the second-best player in the world to this day, I would say behind Leo Messi. He hasn’t quite reached that age where you can use that as an excuse to say he can’t compete with the top players. We do have a lot of young talent, but I think the youth still has to keep up with [Messi and Ronaldo].”
Hernandez also commented on whether the Reds can truly compete for the Champions League with their new additions.
“I think they do have a very strong lineup now, but I don’t,” Hernandez said. “I think PSG is the much stronger team in this current day.”
“Real Madrid got very close to signing Kylian Mbappe and if that had happened, I think my opinion would be different,” Hernandez said. “With Messi, Neymar and Mbappe as the front three, I don’t see anyone beating them.”
Morrell was slightly more optimistic. “I 100% think United is making a run (in the Champions League), but before the addition of Ronaldo, I wouldn’t say their roster was up to par with some of the other teams,” he said.
While it remains to be seen whether Ronaldo can achieve English and European glory once again, this transfer window marks yet another chapter, and perhaps the final one, in the unbelievable careers of the two greatest and most influential to ever play the game. Ronaldo will make his official return to the EPL on Saturday, Sept. 11, when the Red Devils face Newcastle United.