When you’re sat playing Football Manager at 2:15am and you’re offered the chance to sign a 36-year-old who’s scored more goals than you’ve had hot dinners, what do you do?
OBVIOUSLY you say ‘yeahhh, f*ck it – his best days are probably behind him, he’s going to tear apart the wage structure and I’m going to have to massively rejig the squad, but who cares? If he scores enough goals to finally secure that elusive Champions League crown that Crewe Alexandra have craved for so many years then I’m all in’.
And you would be right to do that, because when it all goes wrong and you’re left with a gaping hole in your already threadbare finances, you just click ‘quit to start screen’ and start all over again.
However, when you’re manager of arguably the biggest club in the world and you’ve got the hopes and dreams of millions of fans in the palm of your hand, you laugh off the ludicrous suggestion and carry on building a squad which will one day be capable of challenging on every possible front.
Zinedine Zidane didn’t do the above when asked about the prospect of re-signing Cristiano Ronaldo and it should be a huge concern to Real Madrid fans.
Well, we say it should be a huge concern to them, in reality it probably shouldn’t. After all, even at 36 years of age, Ronaldo is recording eye-watering figures in Turin, notching 75 goals in his 87 Serie A outings so far for the Old Lady.
With the glorious waft of nostalgia in the air and rose-tinted glasses well and truly donned, why shouldn’t Los Blancos fans be dreaming of his return? Because, let’s be honest, one of the best parts about being a football fan is looking back at better times and wishing we could relive them.
Ronaldo’s time at the Santiago Bernabeu was trophy-laden to put it mildly. The Portuguese superstar left the Spanish capital with no fewer than two league titles, two Copa del Rey triumphs, two Super Cups, three Club World Cups and, most impressively of all, four Champions Leagues.
Fans should be allowed to dream of Ronaldo’s return, but it simply isn’t a viable option for Real Madrid and it’s the job of Zidane to taper their expectations.
You’re now probably sat there thinking ‘well why isn’t it a viable option if he’s scoring loads of goals?’ which is a fair question, but that’s the mentality of a Football Manager player and not the mentality Zidane should have.
Yes, he’s scoring plenty of goals, and he’ll undoubtedly continue to do so in the white of Madrid if the club do look to reunite with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, but there’s an immense difference between their capture of the 24-year-old back in 2009 and their potential pursuit of the 36-year-old currently at Juventus.
For starters, with every club in the world impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, the current economic climate means mega-money deals are going to be few and far between over the coming years.
Real have made no secret of their desire to bring Kylian Mbappe to the club this summer, and any pursuit of Ronaldo would unquestionably end their already ambitious bid to sign the Frenchman given the sums of money that both deals would involve.
Not only would a move for Ronaldo make no sense in that it would scupper any other deals the club had lined up, it also presents a huge risk in upsetting the balance of the side – something his current club Juventus have discovered at some cost.
The motive behind Juve’s signing of Ronaldo seemed obvious – they’d not won the Champions League since 1996, so bring in Mr Champions League and end the years of hurt.
It hasn’t worked.
Juve have failed to even make it as far as the quarter-final stage of both editions of the competition in which Ronaldo has been part of their squad, and even look destined to fail to retain their Serie A crown this season.
The truth of the matter is, regardless of how many goals Ronaldo scores, signing one player alone doesn’t guarantee success, and instead Juve have been left attempting to shoehorn the Portugal international into every single starting XI they’ve fielded for nearly two years, meaning players like Paulo Dybala have found themselves on the fringes of first-team action.
And it’s this last point which is perhaps the crux of the argument. It’s impossible not to play a player of Ronaldo’s calibre at every given occasion, yet where is the sense in building a team around someone who could retire in two years, leaving you with a huge void in your squad and needing to embark on a total rebuild of your starting XI?
Does Cristiano Ronaldo score goals? Yes. Will Cristiano Ronaldo continue to score goals until he’s about 90? Probably, yes. Is he the right man for Real Madrid? Absolutely not, and his spell in Italy should be a huge warning to Zidane the next time he’s quizzed on the matter.