After 12 years away, Cristiano Ronaldo has returned to the club that made him a star. In a stunning turn of events, the 36-year-old is returning to Manchester United after lengthy transfer talks broke down with Manchester City. The move and decision were shocking and rocked the soccer world on Friday.
After weeks of pursuit, City backed out of talks for Ronaldo with Juventus late Thursday night. That came right about the same time United entered discussions to bring the superstar forward back to town. By Friday morning a deal was sealed and Ronaldo would be back at Old Trafford, donning a United kit for the first time since 2009.
Juventus wasn't keen on selling its biggest name, but the club has projected losses over last two years of €300 million, it made sense to get off his contract. In three seasons with Juventus, Ronaldo scored 81 goals in 98 Serie A matches, including 29 in 33 league appearances last season. So yeah, he still has it.
From 2003 through 2009, Ronaldo lit up the Premier League for United. He scored 84 goals in 196 league matches and helped the club to three league titles. He won the 2008 Ballon d'Or and was the FIFA World Player of the Year, while also winning the European Golden Shoe in that campaign. In both 2007 and 2008 he was named both the PFA Players' Player of the Year and the Premier League Player of the Season. He was an absolute star and then he bolted for Real Madrid following the 2008-09 season.
During his time in Madrid, Ronaldo's star rose even further. He entered into a battle with Lionel Messi to determine the undisputed best player in the world -- and possibly the best in history. In the process he became arguably the best pure goal scorer the game has ever seen while winning the Ballon d'Or four more times.
Now he's back where it all began, though that didn't seem possible 24 hours ago. On Thursday morning rumors circulated that a deal to head to City was close to done and Ronaldo was close to finalizing a contract. Then on Friday that all changed. City apparently wouldn't offer more than €15 million in a transfer fee and talks fell apart. In the end, United swooped in and landed him for €15 million with another €8 million in possible add-ons.
Ronaldo is not the same player as when he left Old Trafford in 2009. He's older, savvier and isn't as brash as he once was. He can still be an elite goal scorer at his peak, though his valleys are a bit deeper these days. But this is an absolute win for Manchester United. The club gets the great story of bringing back a beloved star who also happens to be one of the most marketable athletes in the world, and one of the greatest footballers ever.
And it didn't even seem possible 24 hours ago. Truly a stunning day.