Weeks of speculation over Cristiano Ronaldo’s future came to an end on Tuesday. The Portuguese superstar completed his transfer to Juventus for a fee in the region of £88 million.
A move away from the Santiago Bernabeu had been in the offing since Real Madrid won yet another Champions League, but it was still hard to really believe the rumours until an official announcement was made.
It’s almost surreal. Rumours of a transfer have previously been a crude decoy for a pay rise. This time it was obviously different, but Juventus were always way down the list of potential suitors.
The timing was strange for a transfer of this magnitude, too. They could have waited for the World Cup to end for maximum attention, and neither party made any flashy announcement.
The Old Lady got their man. A 33-year-old, five-time Ballon d’Or winner fresh off another remarkable season. Sure, there will be shouty criticisms in corners of the internet, but it’s hard to argue with the deal from Juventus’ perspective.
Expect A Busy Summer In Turin
This could be the first of many dominos to fall this transfer window. It’s been slow going for the rumour mill thanks to the World Cup, but sales from Juventus are inevitable now with Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala both linked with moves away. We could be seeing one or two Juve stars move to the Premier League before the window shuts.
Max Allegri’s squad may look quite different by the opening day of the Serie A season. The Turin-based club are massive favourites for yet another title, however, at 4/9.
Across multiple managers and teams, Juventus have won seven straight. Adding Ronaldo to the mix surely only enhances their chances of further success, even if it causes a minor rebuild of the team.
The loss of iconic goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon further emphasises the changing of the guard. Buffon was synonymous with Juventus, and his struggle to match his domestic success with a Champions League triumph had become one of the great footballing stories.
This era of Juventus dominance was built on shrewd deals and an Italian defensive core. Ronaldo is a move away from that, and maybe, just maybe, a significant moment for the whole of Italian football. It’s been a while since Serie A attracted the sport’s biggest names.
Napoli, Juventus’ closest competitors, are out at 6/1 to win the Scudetto. The price speaks volumes. Napoli could have a markedly different (weaker) squad themselves and are under the guidance of Carlo Ancelotti instead of Maurizio Sarri, who masterminded their breath-taking football last season.
It’s possible, of course, that things go drastically wrong for Juventus and Ronaldo’s arrival upsets a club cruising domestically. That seems no more than a remote possibility, though, making Napoli’s 6/1 price still too short.
Dreaming of Europe
Juventus’ real desire is European glory. They’ve conquered Italy and reigned supreme for the best part of a decade, now it’s time to do what Buffon never could.
No club has lost as many European Cup/Champions League finals as Juve (7). Two of those came since 2015, and five since they last won the competition in 1996. Ronaldo, in stark contrast, has won five Champions League finals in his career, including four of the last five.
One player is not going to take Juventus from nearly men to victors, that’s just now how football works, but it certainly increases their chances. Every fan, every manager in the world would rather that match defining chance was falling to Ronaldo rather than Higuain.
Ronaldo is a ruthless competitor and leader. It would be foolish to right that off as an irrelevance when evaluating Juventus’ chances in Europe’s premier competition.
What has made Real Madrid’s spell of Champions League dominance so remarkable, though, is the luck required to win knockout competitions. Good fortune, freak performances and an array of other factors influence a team’s chances of lifting the Champions League. The winners are not necessarily the best team, the same as with any knockout tournament.
Picking an outright winner is hard as a result. Juventus’ chances are obviously enhanced, but even choosing a favourite is challenging until we’ve seen where players move. Real Madrid will still be fancied by many, particularly if they were to add a couple more attacking superstars like Neymar and Eden Hazard.
Champions League or Bust
Ronaldo has adapted well as he’s aged. His influence on the match has lessened, but his impact in the final third is as great as ever. Decline physically has been held off – and maybe it will be indefinitely – but this is not a decade long project for Juventus.
It is probably a two or three year job for Ronaldo, giving a relatively small window for Juve to end their quest for that elusive third Champions League.
The impact this deal has on European football as a whole, and more specifically Italian football, is enormous. Without continental glory, though, Ronaldo’s time in Turin will be a relative disappointment, such is the expectation on one of the greatest footballers the sport has ever seen.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*