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Cristiano Ronaldo has wanted to escape Manchester United all summer but time is now running out for the 37-year-old to secure a transfer from Old Trafford.
With the transfer window closing on Thursday, it appears there is an escape route for the former Juventus star, with reports linking him to a return to Serie A with Napoli. Ronaldo’s agent, Jorge Mendes, is also in talks with Sporting about a last-minute move.
Champions League outfit Napoli would welcome the Manchester United star as heir to club legend Diego Maradona, but it would be very difficult to place the player in an environmental context that is difficult to change and the comparison with the club’s most famous player would be damaging are for everyone.
Cristiano Ronaldo (left) should fill club legend Diego Maradona’s shoes at Napoli
Maradona is like the patron saint Januarius of Naples and the risk is that Ronaldo could be considered Judas if he betrays the expectations placed on him from one of the most passionate cities in Europe.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Napoli are two opposite worlds who barely got along. While the attacker wants a club that will play in the Champions League, he doesn’t have Napoli as the first team on the list of clubs he wants to join.
He just wants to fulfill the dream of playing in the Champions League again. Ronaldo is not just any player, he is a star of the Hollywood world with private jets, £500,000 watches on his wrist and a lifestyle so sophisticated it is unique in the world.
It is very difficult to put a player so self-centered and so bulky in the eye of a young and fresh Napoli squad that has never won a league title.
Maradona is idolized in Naples with his effigy as a mural on many of the city’s buildings
However, Napoli fans are watching this very intriguing transfer with great excitement. They want Ronaldo to dream of a great attack by winning with a player who was the sole leader in Juventus for three years.
At the same time, fans are concerned about how he would radically change the team’s style, risking a conflict with the Portuguese star, much like what happened to Francesco Totti at Roma.
Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United has argued with just about everyone, including the media, but this attitude would be even harder to deal with in Italy, given the high media coverage Naples experiences where everyone from the poor retiree to the rich entrepreneur, talk about football as if they had played 500 games in the top flight.
Ronaldo cannot afford star attitudes and the risk of going from a God to a busted flush is very high. So, with that in mind, here are the five reasons why a move to Napoli could spell disaster for the Portugal international.
Ronaldo wants to leave United so he can play in the Champions League this season
Ronaldo does not fit into Napoli’s system
Napoli boss Luciano Spalletti is the charismatic leader for his side and he has disciplined his players in his formation down to precise tactical details. There are fears that trying to push a similar figure like Ronaldo in the flank could cause imbalance.
The team is playing by heart and the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo would destabilize the 11 men on the field and Spalletti’s 4-2-3-1 formation would suffer from speed and dynamism.
Ronaldo is not an ordinary player and therefore he must be protected by the manager even during training. As Ronaldo’s former Juve boss Max Allegri argued, he is a two-legged company and for this reason has a very selfish approach to the world of football and the events of the team he plays for.
Ronaldo’s arrival in Naples could destabilize the Napoli team’s balance sheet
His style of play does not include the defensive work that others are doing and this would be detrimental to the balance of Spalletti’s team, which has always wanted to orchestrate the attack and defense phase, even with the participation of the most advanced players on the field.
However, Italian football is slower than what is played in the Premier League and Ronaldo is said to be even more effective than he has seen in Manchester in the past 12 months, with 24 goals in 39 games.
Ronaldo is a legacy of football and around him is a perfect organization that Napoli may not have as a club.
The Khvicha Kvaratskhelia Problem
The arrival of Ronaldo would also create many problems in the tactical management of the team, as if Victor Osimhen stayed, given the Red Devils purchase of Antony, it would be difficult to find a place for Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.
The Georgian 21-year-old star has three goals from as many matches and has impressed as a left winger.
This problem is both technical and tactical as well as financial because ‘Kvara’ represents an economic asset that must be preserved in case of future sale.
Arriving in the summer for £8.5million (€10million), his price has already tripled and within 12 months he could become a new global star.
Promising winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia saw his development at the club hampered
Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis has always defined players over 32 as old, but buying Ronaldo would be a great economic undertaking that would ensure that Napoli would pay nothing, or only a small fraction, of his high salary at Manchester United.
This solution is intriguing and highly speculative, but it would jeopardize the development of Kvaratskhelia at Maradona Stadium.
Would a year of experimenting with Ronaldo be worth damaging crucial years in Kvara’s career?
Another Totti situation for Spalletti?
The squabbles between the former number 10 Roma and Spalletti are so infamous that they inspired a film about Totti’s life and his difficult relationship with the Tuscan coach who tried to limit his talent while respecting the balance of the team.
Spalletti is an intelligent and very easy-going coach who always wants to put his team first, beyond any player.
With Cristiano Ronaldo, the situation would be completely different as the remaining 10 players on the pitch, including the goalkeeper, would have to live 90 minutes obsessed with feeding the Portuguese forward. Now the feeling is that Ronaldo is not the icing on the cake, but a Portuguese dessert that is too alcoholic to keep the whole team sober.
If Spalletti decided to let Ronaldo sit on the bench, all the cameras and the fans’ eyes would be ready to immortalize the attacker’s grimaces, as happened recently in Manchester.
Napoli boss Luciano Spalletti is unlikely to change his team’s playing style in favor of Ronaldo
Delays in training or difficulties communicating with the team would also be a great sounding board to create a media hurricane in any match. Luciano Spalletti is currently the best Italian coach and the extraordinary work of the last 90 days proves that it has kept the club stable after important departures.
No man in the world would have kept the Napoli coach calm at the news of the divorce of David Ospina, Kalidou Koulibaly, Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne, but Spalletti likes men with strong destinies, as he likes to repeat, and has opted for the uphill road. Now, however, media pressure regarding Ronaldo’s surgery threatens to shake his patience.
Spalletti is in love with the city and dreaming of winning the Serie A title would also bring him the joy of being one of the few coaches to celebrate a win far from the Turin-Milan-Rome triangle.
Spalletti fears that Ronaldo could weaken the team’s poise and fighting spirit and this haunts him, even though Ronaldo has never shown this publicly.
Would Ronaldo make way on the set pieces?
Juventus’ free-kick crisis arose when Ronaldo arrived at the Allianz Stadium.
Ronaldo has taken countless free kicks during his Serie A career, but in 99 per cent of the cases his shots never went into the goal. Dusan Vlahovic’s free kick for Juve against Roma was the first since the Portuguese star’s last goal against Turin in 2020.
This selfishness can cause a lot of dissatisfaction with other players who usually want to go in front of the goal from distance or the penalty spot. Ronaldo would become a more useful character to promote record shots in a De Laurentiis film, but he would hardly be able to create harmony in a team with a well-defined philosophy where selfishness has never existed until now.
Ronaldo drama is that he still thinks he is the player from 10 years ago, but in reality he is a rather eccentric stunt double who cannot accept the passage of time.
Ronaldo may have to put aside his insistence on taking set pieces if he goes to Napoli
Can Napoli capture Ronaldo without selling Osimhen?
This is the most recurring question in Naples as Manchester United, after paying £84million (€100m) for Antony, have no intention of spending another £84million on striker Victor Osimhen.
Negotiation is possible without exchange, but it is very difficult because there are gaps at both an economic and tactical level.
Osimhen, Ronaldo, Raspadori, Simeone, Lozano and Kvara would be too many and Spalletti would face too much pressure in managing the line-up. Osimhen dreams of becoming a top scorer and if he continued to play for Ronaldo there would be constant fights over scoring opportunities such as penalty kicks.
It’s hard to imagine peaceful competition while it’s hard to imagine Ronaldo stopping in attack with 10 players to run for him.
By signing Ronaldo, Napoli should sell star men, including Victor Osimhen