Cristiano Ronaldo finally put an end to speculation regarding his next destination on Friday as he completed his anticipated move to Saudi Pro League side Al Nassr.
Manchester United parted ways with the Portugal superstar by mutual consent in November, despite the 37-year-old having over six months to run on his contract at Old Trafford.
That move came after an explosive interview in which Ronaldo declared he felt “betrayed” by United and expressed his lack of respect for manager Erik ten Hag and former boss Ralf Rangnick.
The World Cup appeared the immediate priority for Ronaldo, but he offered little with just one group-stage strike against Ghana as Portugal failed to progress beyond the last eight.
Despite Ronaldo unsuccessfully pushing to join a Champions League club prior to the start of the season, a return to Europe’s elite competition still appeared possible with Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Sporting CP linked.
Major League Soccer was also touted as another avenue for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, though he opted for a move to the Middle East as he left Europe for the first time in his remarkable career.
Here, Stats Perform explores why some potential destinations for Ronaldo did not come to fruition.
الرياضي الأعظـم عالميًا
يـوقع رسميًا لـ
— نادي النصر السعودي (@AlNassrFC)
Major League Soccer
With the MLS season recently concluding, a move to North America would have presented Ronaldo with a clean slate for 2023 and boosted the profile of the league ahead of the 2026 World Cup taking place in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Ronaldo required a Designated Player spot for any franchise looking to make a move, eliminating several clubs from the equation, but David Beckham’s Inter Miami were attributed with a strong interest.
However, as speculation grows over the Herons making a move for Lionel Messi, could Beckham and Miami really afford both superstars?
Ronaldo’s return to United was not as successful as fans would have wanted, but a fairytale reunion with boyhood club Sporting was still repeatedly suggested.
The prospect of Champions League football next season may have appealed to the forward, though Ruben Amorim’s side will be playing in the Europa League this term after dropping out of UEFA’s premier club competition.
While a storied move home may have interested the romantics, the links became increasingly frustrating for Amorim, who angrily responded to such questions during the World Cup.
“Ronaldo was in Qatar, they had the opportunity to ask him and they didn’t. I’ve been asked 500 times and I already answered,” he said after a December 19 win over Braga.
Reports suggested Julian Nagelsmann held talks with Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes, though Bayern Munich chief executive Oliver Kahn never envisaged the former Real Madrid star moving to Germany.
“We briefly discussed Ronaldo at Bayern and Dortmund probably did too,” Kahn told BILD. “We also see the big picture of the Bundesliga.
“Of course, superstars like Ronaldo are an important factor in attracting attention to the league. He is one of the greatest of the last decade. But we quickly dismissed that.”
Chelsea were repeatedly named as contenders to snatch the attacker from Premier League rivals United in a bid to appease new owner Todd Boehly’s desire for a marquee Blues signing.
Thomas Tuchel was reportedly against the proposal – though his dismissal as Chelsea head coach earlier this year could have provided the catalyst for a change of heart at Stamford Bridge.
But Graham Potter and Boehly opted against a move with a plethora of attacking talent to call upon, while the Blues also appear strong favourites to sign breakout RB Leipzig star Christopher Nkunku.
Top of Serie A and heading into the World Cup break on the back of an 11-match winning run, Napoli were touted as potential suitors for Ronaldo, who dominated the Italian top flight during three years with Juventus.
Striker Victor Osimhen has been linked with a move to United, but Napoli executives want to focus on the future – despite Ronaldo’s remarkable output in the Champions League.
“We wanted to invest in a young team,” Napoli sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli told Corriere dello Sport.
He later added to Sky Sport Italia: “We never really talked about Ronaldo. In football you get nowhere with ifs and buts. We are happy with the squad we have, we are confident this is a competitive team.”
He couldn’t have, could he? After scoring 311 times in LaLiga for Real Madrid, a move to fierce rivals Atletico would have represented one of the most memorable transfers in history.
While some at the Civitas Metropolitano may have flirted with the idea of a seismic move for their archnemesis, coach Diego Simeone was never interested.
He told Tigo Sports: “Ronaldo is an absolute benchmark for Real Madrid and I would not see [Martin] Palermo ever playing for River, just as I wouldn’t see [Juan Roman] Riquelme or [Ariel] Ortega playing for Boca. There are situations that are very clear.”