Daily Mail

Ronaldo can have respect if he accepts he is not top dog any more


Piers Morgan will not be alone in hoping his friend Cristiano ronaldo signs for arsenal. Pep guardiola, one imagines, will be a big fan of the idea, too. Having sold Mikel arteta one of the hardest- working centre forwards in football, gabriel Jesus, plus his now first- choice left back, oleksandr Zinchenko, then watching arteta’s rejuvenate­d arsenal establish a fivepoint gap on Manchester City, guardiola must be wondering what can be done to rein in the league leaders.

sign an increasing­ly ineffectua­l and disruptive 37-year-old egomaniac who was once the best player in the world, but still acts as if he is, even if his best days are behind him, and will take a torch to team spirit if anyone so much as veers from a fawning narrative. Yes, that should do it. Maybe guardiola has already put a call in with the recommenda­tion.

on current form, arsenal require ronaldo about as much as england’s Twenty20 team need Piers’ other great friend, Kevin Pietersen. arsenal came close to ruin treading that dead- end path already.

They awarded huge contracts to self-absorbed individual­s such as Mesut ozil and Pierre-emerick aubameyang, whose powers were already waning and who were a poor influence on the rest of the squad. repairing the damage cost them greatly, both financiall­y and in terms of status. arsenal lost the ability to contend for the biggest prizes at elite level.

now, they are back. and they are back precisely because arteta would not tolerate a ronaldo in his ranks. His arsenal are built on young, vibrant, enthusiast­ic players and, if anything, his only misstep is not perseverin­g with Joe Willock, now going from strength to strength at newcastle, rather than failing to sufficient­ly flatter the ego of aubameyang.

it is not just that ronaldo would not get into arsenal’s team, it is that he has nothing to offer them, having proved so conclusive­ly at Manchester United that he cannot be a squad player, or happily occupy a supporting role.

That is what his ‘betrayal’ interview is really about. ronaldo’s utter inability to accept he is no longer the focal point of the team. That is why guardiola did not pursue him for City.

He knew ronaldo would not accept being a substitute or being substitute­d, he knew he would not compromise his star status for the greater good of the group. Kevin De Bruyne sits on the bench in some games without complaint, he is removed at half-time and accepts it. guardiola knows De Bruyne would play left back if it was desired.

not ronaldo. and, time was, it did not matter because ronaldo’s value to the team made every bit of indulgence worthwhile.

That is no longer the case. ronaldo has started four league games this season and United’s record in them reads one win, one draw, two losses. Two goals scored, seven conceded. He was on from the start in the 4-0 defeat by Brentford, the 3-1 loss at aston Villa and a goalless home draw with newcastle.

His only victory came at home to a faltering West Ham side and he has not scored in any of those games. He has three goals this season and two were against FC sheriff, of Moldova, in the europa League.

The days when he seemed to make trophies happen at real

madrid by sheer will are over. He demands respect and would no doubt get it if he just accepted an ancillary role. Yet leaving Ronaldo on the bench still comes at a cost for any manager, as erik ten Hag is discoverin­g.

What coach will read Ronaldo’s most recent denunciati­on and see an attitude that would be helpful to his club?

and it is not just the hard-nosed profession­als turning off. even the romantics among us, initially excited by the potential in Ronaldo’s return, have long grown disillusio­ned. His latest selfindulg­ence merely confirms the cynical view. It is very dispiritin­g.

even before this bridge-burning exercise, Ronaldo was a hard sell. If his motive, as is assumed, was to ensure his January departure, he is behind the news. United would have sold in the summer if a buyer could have been found. and what has changed?

graham Potter is likely to be no keener on bringing him to Chelsea than Thomas Tuchel was, and there is no one else in the establishe­d Big Six that might need or could tolerate him. even newcastle, the interloper­s, appear to have a more sophistica­ted gameplan than recruiting a marquee name to put the club on the map.

They can do that with less jeopardy by qualifying for the Champions League. napoli are eight points clear at the top of Serie a without Ronaldo, so why risk that, while the romance of a return to Sporting Lisbon would require a substantia­l cut in his £560,000 weekly wage.

Of course, United could pick up the shortfall to send him on loan — that is if they decide his latest outburst is not grounds for breach of contract, and terminatio­n.

most appealing would be interest from Bayern munich although they, too, do not pay at Ronaldo’s level. The prospect of Champions League football would appeal, yet why would a club with Sadio mane, who turns 31 in april, and eric maxim Choupo-moting, 34 in march, seek a striker who will turn 38 in February?

The Bundesliga has reverted to type with Bayern now four points clear and is Ronaldo really the man to steer them past Paris Saint-germain in the Champions League last 16? a rematch with Lionel messi is enticing and strokes the ego, but not if the argentinia­n arrives with the superior team, as is likely.

EITHER way, there seems no way back for Ronaldo at United, profession­ally or reputation­ally. ‘I love the fans, they are always on my side,’ he told morgan. Yet they won’t be, after this. Fans were on Ronaldo’s side because they thought he was on their side, on the side of United, their club.

Yet Ronaldo spoke for one man only this week. He spoke against a manager most believe is doing a good job trying to transform a team in difficult circumstan­ces.

and even when Ronaldo struck a chord with his claim that the club had not evolved since he left, his view came shorn of any selfawaren­ess. For, after this, if one act was evidence of a club unhealthil­y mired in its past, it was the decision to re-recruit Cristiano Ronaldo.

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