Now I’ll admit it, every eight or nine years I might get something wrong. But in this instance I’m convinced it’s a horrible, half-brained idea for Cristiano Ronaldo to re-sign for Manchester United.
I’ll tell you why.
A couple of weeks ago I spent an evening in the company of several ex-Manchester United players. Drink was taken.
As is often the case they wanted information and opinion about the state of play at the biggest Spanish clubs – Madrid in particular.
Some of them had been in touch with Cristiano over the previous few days and weeks and the reports were grim.
Okay, his goalscoring form was imperious (10 in the last five Champions League matches to become one of only nine players ever to start in a team which won that competition back to back).
In “any other business” he was European Champion with Portugal, Spanish and World Club champion with Madrid – the clean sweep of trophies available to him except Spain’s Copa del Rey.
But he wasn’t happy. Not at all.
This was BEFORE he was hit with 14.7 million Euros tax evasion charges!
Whether you think he’s acting like a huffy teenager or not, what he told his ex-team-mates when they spoke to him was that he still yearned for the days when Manchester United “looked after” him “properly”.
With United’s club structure, with United’s pretty constant “omerta” stance against the mass media, with Fergie’s aggressive, front-foot “who are you looking at?” war-like attitude to critics, foes and opposition managers, Ronaldo felt like he was supported, appreciated … cosseted, even.
At Madrid it’s different. Where United fans deified the Portuguese, aware they had the benefit of watching one of the club’s modern phenomena, the Santiago Bernabeu support can be boorish.
They can make their own players feel like they are surrounded by 70,000 double-agents sent to the stadium to put Madrid off their stride.
While the Old Trafford culture under Fergie was bellicose, happy to get behind the team and filled with traditional songs handed down over the years from father to son, at Madrid there’s the attitude that unless they are seeing PRECISELY what they want to see then they are entitled to jeer, whistle and even boo.
They are demanding. They want the effort of a pack horse and the style of a thoroughbred stallion – all wrapped up in the same footballer.
As for the media in Spain it has become a pantomime. The two Catalan papers throwing brown stuff at Madrid, the two Madrid papers throwing brown stuff at Barcelona.
If they can target an individual player, especially point scoring Messi over Ronaldo or vice versa, then they do it – often at the cost of intelligence, accuracy and decency.
Ronaldo’s expectation is that the club, via their press office, via an official spokesman, via the coach and via the President, will strike back with a semi-constant Fergie-esque stream of indignant lava on his behalf.
Speaking to his ex-United team-mates, Cristiano fantasised that if only Old Trafford could be re-located to somewhere in Southern Europe it would be his dream club in his dream environment.
He REALLY doesn’t like the grim, grey, cold, clammy Manchester weather!
Which possibly rules out him finishing his career as far north as Pittodrie, Cove Rangers or Huntly.
Anyhoo. Right after scoring twice in the Champions League final to humiliate Juventus and to win the trophy for his fourth time, he told assembled media that, in Spain, he felt treated “like a delinquent”.
Now if he’s convicted of tax fraud then we could return to that word and its definitions – but he wasn’t talking about the tax case then.
So, naturally, when the Portuguese press were fed the story of Ronaldo’s fury at Madrid and Spain and his wish to leave the club (fed by Ronaldo’s representatives I’d estimate), the lazier parts of the UK media simply said: “he wants to go back to United”.
Now, assuming that he was telling the truth to his ex-Old Trafford team-mates when he spoke to them frankly and in private just a few weeks ago it was very clear he didn’t want to go back to Manchester.
He wanted to be at United again, but couldn’t countenance all the re-acclimatisation that would mean for him, his son and his girlfriend. But there’s more, much more.
Albeit that Ronaldo was hugely important for Jose Mourinho while at Madrid and they share the same agent (Jorge Mendes), the two parted at daggers drawn and, once Mourinho had returned to Chelsea, he took several ill-advised jabs at CR7 (how wise he must feel now, I don’t think).
Football is a pragmatic, percentage-led, “what’s in it for me?” game, so the idea of the two men artificially patching things up because it suits them in selfish terms isn’t totally impossible.
But hugely unlikely, and very ill-advised. Neither man’s ego has dulled in the intervening four years and the “who’s in the power seat?” battle could destabilise United.
More than that, there’s a clear football rationale for Ronaldo to go nowhere near Mourinho’s current project.
One of the things which has worked brilliantly for the Portuguese since Zidane took over at Madrid is that the team play recklessly attacking football. Zidane promised it would be so, full-backs flying up the wing, three strikers, midfield filled with creativity … often a structure of 2-3-5, like the old days in the 1950s.
Ronaldo is not the player he was either when he left United, in 2009, or the rampaging footballer who lit the blue touchpaper when he arrived at Madrid.
Older, less superhuman, less prone to dribbling or scoring from free-kicks, he’s become a finisher. Great at it, but requiring the team around him to be adventurous, attacking, risk-friendly and bold.
Now, honestly, does that sound like Mourinho’s United?