It may be an awful lot of money for a 33-year-old but the Portuguese superstar’s arrival would give Serie A a priceless boost in popularity
He couldn’t, could he? Could Ronaldo really leave Real Madrid for Juventus? We know talks are ongoing. We know Ronaldo is unsettled. But he couldn’t, could he?
Lothar Matthaus can’t see it happening. Like so many others, he just can’t get his head around it: why would the five-time Ballon d’Or winner move to Serie A?
“I don’t believe it, and I still think he will stay at Madrid,” the former Inter midfielder told the Gazzetta dello Sport on Thursday.
“He plays for the best club in the world, with whom he has won everything. I can’t see it because why would he go to Juve? The Italian league is not like it was in my day.
“I recognise that there have been signs of a revival, that Italy is growing. Last season their teams did well in the Champions League and the Europa League, but they still haven’t reached the level of the Spanish and English sides.”
Ronaldo’s arrival would change everything, though – and he knows it. The world’s most famous footballer would be plying his trade in Italy; it would alter the entire perception of the league.
He would be feted as a god; the saviour of Serie A. He would receive the respect and reverence that he feels he has been often denied in Spain.
Money is obviously also a major factor but Ronaldo wasn’t just being paying lip service to Juventus fans when he thanked them for affording him a standing ovation after his spectacular overhead kick in Turin in March. He was genuinely touched by the collective show of sportsmanship.
“To receive an ovation from the stadium with so much history, is a unique experience,” he told Madrid’s official YouTube channel.
“When I was a kid, I liked Juventus and the fact that their fans have applauded me will stay with me.”
He had never forgotten how hard they tried to sign him from Sporting as a teenager either. It was a done deal. He had agreed to join Juve as an 18-year-old but Marcelo Salas’ refusal to move in the opposite direction scuppered the transfer.
Now, though, he could belatedly join the Bianconeri. It would be as sensational as it would be shocking. For the first time in a decade, the reigning Ballon d’Or winner would be playing in Serie A.
That would be a truly remarkable development, given the Italian game’s money problems in recent years. Only this summer, AC Milan have been banned from competing in Europe for breaching Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations.
Juve, by contrast, are one of the best-run clubs in European football. Prudence, though, has been pivotal to their re-emergence as a major force. In addition, they were already looking at posting a loss in revenue for 2018, so why, then, are they sanctioning a €340 million package to sign a 33-year-old?
Because they, along with parent company Exor-Fiat, believe Ronaldo would be worth it, from both a sporting and financial perspective. Indeed, Exor-Fiat intend to sweeten the deal for Ronaldo with a variety of lucrative sponsorship deals related to their business empire.
Of course, the numbers are still staggering: €60m gross for four seasons, plus a transfer fee of €100m. However, Juve plan to immediately cash in on Gonzalo Higuain, thus removing their highest earner from their salary bill (7.5m), while replacing Gianluigi Buffon with Mattia Perin stands to save the Bianconeri about €20m in wages over the next four years.
Furthermore, the Old Lady is already reaping the rewards of just being linked with Ronaldo, with the value of the club’s shares rising by a record-breaking 7.6 per cent by the close of business on the stock exchange on Wednesday alone.
The Bianconeri are also anticipating shirt sales will sky-rocket. But then, all merchandising sales would go through the roof, while it has also been estimated that sponsorship revenue could increase by as much as 30%.
With four teams now guaranteed a place in the group stage of the Champions League, the days of Juve earning more than €100m from the tournament would appear to be over, given the money pot will likely be shared more equally from now on, but the Turin outfit will at least benefit from the recently agreed, new, improved Serie A rights deal.
Juve would also suddenly become a major box-office draw, wherever they play, and not since the days of the Brazilian Ronaldo would an Italian team attract so many viewers and spectators.
Fans across the globe would tune in to see Ronaldo’s every game; to see if he could win a domestic title in a third country; to see if “Mr. Champions League” could end Juve’s 22-year European Cup drought.
It’s certainly not beyond him. He is managing himself well off the field and showing no signs of slowing down on it. The consummate professional, he remains in peak physical condition. Portugal team-mate Bernardo Silva believes he could easily play in another World Cup, and why not?
He is coming off the back of another remarkable season, still scoring at an unprecedented rate.
There is, of course, a slight risk that signing Ronaldo could upset some of Juve’s star names. The Portuguese’s high profile and colossal wages – he would be earning at least four times more than any other player – could create friction.
However, judging by Blaise Matuidi’s reaction to the possibility of playing alongside the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, he would be welcomed with open arms in Turin.
“I’m not going to lie: it would be just great,” the France midfielder enthused. “It would be great to have one of the best players in the world with Juventus in the same club that I am.
“It would be great for the club and for the Juventus players.”
It would also be great for Serie A. The one concern, of course, is that his arrival would only solidify Juventus’ grip on the Scudetto.
With Ronaldo in their starting line-up, an eighth consecutive title would appear a formality for the Bianconeri but his signing would benefit the entire league, given it would generate renewed interest.
As Christian Vieri told BeIN Sports, “For Italian football, it would be like winning the lottery.
“People don’t talk about Serie A much abroad because there aren’t the superstars there were in the past. Ronaldo could revitalise it.”
He really could, you know.