On this day in 2018, Cristiano Ronaldo completed a surprising switch to Serie A champions Juventus from Spanish giants Real Madrid.
In 2018, Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid were a side on a roll. They might have suffered domestically, only winning the La Liga in 2011-12 and 2016-17 but they were the undisputed kings of Europe. Before 2017, no team had won back to back Champions League trophies. Before 2018, no team had won three Champions League trophies on the trot. Real Madrid did both, and in the process won the tournament four times in five years. Of course, Real Madrid won five straight European Cups from 1955-60, but this was before the tournament’s rebranding into the Champions League. What’s more, the club seemed primed for more success in the future. That was before being struck by a double blow. First manager Zinedine Zidane left, then Ronaldo followed suit.
Yes, it was on this very day 3 years ago that Ronaldo stunned everyone by joining Juventus. But how did this happen? What led to this sudden turn of events? We look at the back story.
The relatively hasty manner in which the move took place led many to believe it was a sudden, last-minute departure. However, the truth of the matter is different.
Ronaldo was already unhappy at the Spanish capital. One reason was the fact that he was caught up in tax fraud allegations, which deeply hurt him.
The other – and arguably more important – factor was his relationship with Real president Fiorentino Perez. Ronaldo reportedly asked the president for a pay raise given the role he played in the club’s success. Perez bluntly said no.
This angered Ronaldo, who was also miffed at hearing that the club would be willing to pay more money to sign Neymar – someone who plays in the same position as Ronaldo.
According to former Real president Ramon Calderon, Perez basically told Ronaldo to get him a cheque of 100 million euros from a club if he wanted to leave. Juventus did just that, completing a signing no one thought possible.
But given many in the upper echelons of the football world knew this, how come there was little interest from elsewhere? Well, it turned out there actually was.
Former club Manchester United were interested but reportedly didn’t move fast enough to complete the deal. Paris Saint-Germain also wanted to sign him but were limited by Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations. This is because they signed both Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for astronomical sums.
As a result, Juventus had a clean run to sign one of the greatest players ever. And of course, they got the deal done.
Ronaldo himself spoke up about his move in an interview with France Football later that year. While at first he said he left because he wanted a new challenge, he told the French publication he left due to issues with Perez.
“I felt within the club, especially from the president, that I was no longer considered in the same way as I was at the beginning,” Ronaldo had said.
“For the first four or five years, I felt like Cristiano Ronaldo. Less so after. The president looked at me in a way that suggested I was no longer indispensable if you know what I mean. That is what made me think about leaving.”
He also denied the move was motivated by money itself. “If it had all been about money, I’d have moved to China, where I would have earned five times as much than here (at Juventus) or at Real.
“I did not come to Juve for the money. I earned the same in Madrid, if not more.”
Perez, for his part, believes it was down to the fact that he was denied a pay raise at Real.
“There were rumours about him wanting to leave because of the tax case, but that’s not the reality of the situation,” he told Onda Cero in May 2019.
“He wanted a change and to improve his contract, so he found it at Juventus and everyone was happy.”
Cristiano Ronaldo has added to his collection of trophies in his three years at the club. He’s won two Serie A titles and a Coppa Italia, equating to a trophy every season.
Juventus have also won the one-off Supercoppa Italia during that time. However, there is also a train of thought that Ronaldo’s move hasn’t quite been a success.
That’s not down to the player himself, of course. But the main reason he was brought in was to help propel the side to Champions League glory – something that hasn’t happened thus far.
Of course, blame for that will lie with the upper management, who failed to build a team capable of challenging for top honours. The rollercoaster managerial situation hasn’t helped either.
In his three seasons at Turin, Ronaldo has played under three different managers – all of whom preach different styles. He started under the pragmatic Massimiliano Allegri, then spent a season under the possession-obsessed Maurizio Sarri.
Andrea Pirlo then shockingly got the job in 2020 but his time there is widely considered a failure. And as of now, there remains some doubt over Ronaldo’s future at Juventus too.
The rumour mill has constantly linked him with a move away. Whether he stays at the club to try and win the Champions League or move again remains to be seen.