There’s substance to this summer story of Juventus not only wanting to buy Cristiano Ronaldo but Madrid being willing, at least, to talk to them about the deal.
Whether a guy who has only refused to countenance returning to Manchester United because of the weather – something I know because he told one of his ex-team-mates recently and that team-mate told me – feels differently about grey, clammy, cold northern Italy in winter remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, Cristiano is a strange animal and what he demands back for his Herculean effort to be as exemplary and as reliable as he is at his age is that no player, be he Messi or Neymar, can be allowed to out-salary him and also that Madrid show servile love for him.
Think of it like this. Cristiano is obsessed with how he looks and would be furious with the mirror if it told him things he didn’t like. But that’s something he can take charge of himself and by all accounts his personal regime, aimed at leaving him able to keep on winning the Ballon D’Or and Champions League, is astonishing.
But he’s also obsessed by how Real Madrid treat him. Which is something he feels he’s taking charge of too, by being their most important player (potentially ever) – but justifiably or otherwise it has been a long time since he’s been satisfied either with their treatment of him or by his salary.
Now Juventus, I’d say, look an unlikely way for him to spend the autumn of his career, but two things play here. Firstly, when he scored that astonishing overhead kick in the quarter-finals of the Champions League in Turin the Juve crowd spontaneously applauded him and that hit Cristiano where he lives. He loved that and said so, publicly. Juve’s planning started there.
Secondly, Juve have earned 275 million euros from the Champions League between 2014-2017 alone, a chunk of which they are clearly disposed to invest in a guy who turns 34 in February and who wants to be paid a basic 25m per season plus 5m in bonuses.
It’s bonkers, but if you don’t shoot you don’t score.