There’s something oddly satisfying about seeing Cristiano Ronaldo finally leave Real Madrid. Partially because, like a colleague that always seems to moan about their deeply dissatisfying job yet never seem to do much about it, we’ve seen Manchester United’s former number 7 encourage the perception of his dissatisfaction with life at the Bernabeu for multiple summer transfer windows.
So, the image of Ronaldo finally packing his bags and leaving for Turin after nine years in the Spanish capital seems a bit surreal. It also seemingly closes the door on any sort of return to Old Trafford for a player that has frequently flirted with the notion of returning ‘home’ to Manchester after his departure in 2009, but has never followed through with it.
Ronaldo’s move will also likely have something of a domino effect on the European transfer market. After publicly voicing his displeasure at a lack of starting opportunities at Real after May’s Champions League final, it’s impossible to see Gareth Bale returning to the Premier League now that he does not have a certain Portuguese-shaped obstacle in his way, so a move to United is surely dead in the water.
Real, as they often do in these circumstances, will likely spend big in response, with Neymar seemingly the perfect combination of a supremely talented player and a PR goldmine that Los Blancos really crave.
Hypothetically, should PSG lose Neymar, the Ligue 1 champions would surely be on the lookout for a big-name replacement. However, the reality is that options for both clubs are thin on the ground if the marketing face of their club leaves, with most of the continent’s top talents seemingly settled where they are. It all makes more superstar transfers seemingly unlikely this summer.
Not that this is a bad thing for United, of course. The club, as focussed as they are on image almost as much (if not more) than substance, have been repeatedly stung within the last five years, therefore the current dearth of available big-names is far from a disaster.
United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward will likely lament the lack of opportunity to flex the club’s financial muscles, given just how willing United have been to do just that since he took over the role in 2013, but more than anything, Jose Mourinho’s side need to focus on stabilising their current crop of talent before attempting to crowbar another world-renowned star into the starting XI.
There are holes in this current United side, for sure; greater quality is required on both sides of defence, and Mourinho has to place greater emphasis on the development of his talented centre backs instead of relying on a clutch of players that consistently proven to be sub-par. But a quick glance at the options that this club currently has at its disposal should prove once and for all that United are in possession of a talented side that could, with a few additions, challenge for the game’s biggest honours.
Cautionary tales are everywhere; Angel Di Maria, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Memphis Depay barely made an impression at Old Trafford before being shipped out, and Alexis Sanchez’s arrival in January has severely unbalanced a side that really didn’t need any further disruption. All seemed like good, exciting purchases at the time, and the Chilean is currently the only one that still calls United home.
Based on recent results, United don’t stand to gain too much from splurging huge sums of money on yet more midfield or attacking talent if they also aren’t willing to get the best out of the players that they already have.
United kick-off their new Premier League campaign against Leicester – head to RedArmyBet.com for the latest odds
Paul Pogba, who is still seen as one of the game’s most talented midfielders and is enjoying an impressive World Cup this summer, spent a large chunk of last season marginalised, and just imagine how many more goals Romelu Lukaku could have nabbed last season with an improved level of service on both flanks. The former would benefit from formational and tactical approaches that would allow him the freedom to create, and the latter deserves the opportunity to work with players that can deliver the ball with better quality and consistency.
It’s not like either of these two men are being constantly stifled, of course, but they can certainly act as examples as to how United can mismanage their big-money acquisitions. In some ways, it baffles that players costing £89m and £75m respectively aren’t being given the opportunity to fully flourish, and begs the question of why United should keep spending big on flashy signings to woo its fanbase if, with the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford all struggling at points last season, they cannot get the best out of the talent that they have.