Napoli, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich and Chelsea have previously shown an interest in Man United striker Cristiano Ronaldo; United want to bring in an 'elite' forward player and their search would be hastened by the 37-year-old's departure; do the club have grounds to sack Ronaldo?
Tuesday 15 November 2022 17:29, UK
While Cristiano Ronaldo has slim pickings over his next move Manchester United are already targeting a new elite forward, says Melissa Reddy.
Speaking on a special edition of the Essential Football podcast, Sky Sports News senior reporter Reddy said a lack of interest from the likes of Napoli, Atletico Madrid and Chelsea, who had all courted Ronaldo in the summer, meant the vilified striker's options of his next move were limited.
United have said they are waiting for the full facts around his bombshell interview with Piers Morgan to become apparent before they make their next move, but in excerpts already released the 37-year-old says he feels "betrayed" by the club, and that he has no respect for manager Erik ten Hag.
The club are already taking legal advice in anticipation of what else may follow before the full interview is aired on Wednesday and Thursday evening, and Reddy said if Ronaldo is forced out of the club, either during the January transfer window or sooner, there was only one obvious move he could make.
"Chelsea wanted him, Thomas Tuchel pushed against it, and Graham Potter doesn't want to be dealing with the Ronaldo sideshow like United are," she said.
"Then there's Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, all these clubs who have ruled themselves out of the running. Napoli have categorically stated they won't be making a move in January for Ronaldo or any other big player.
"They are happy with their form and how they see their future progressing. They're one of the most entertaining teams to watch in Europe at the moment. It's a no-go for them. It seems like he's got a fairly limited pool of options.
"Perhaps he feels that will change if he's a free agent, but I can't see how much the very top clubs, who believe they can win the Champions League, can see him making a pivotal difference in a positive way to achieve that.
"Sporting are the ones who have romanticised about the idea of Ronaldo's return. They've spoken about how it would be a dream for him to come back, and the only barrier is the financial implications of his return.
"Even taking a huge pay cut would be difficult to make the numbers work. However, they know he would give them a commercial boost like no other player could - and that could help to generate the funds to afford his move. That seems like the only realistic option for him."
Manchester United were already prioritising an "elite" forward player before Ronaldo's interview - and the fall-out from it - given the former Real Madrid man has only featured as a bit-part player for Ten Hag this season, while Anthony Martial has spent most of the campaign so far on the treatment table.
That search will become more urgent if Ronaldo does depart the club, with United then reduced to two senior strikers on their books after Edinson Cavani's departure in the summer.
Reddy said: "I spoke to United's recruitment team recently, and they were saying their priority target is a forward. They want an elite forward, they had looked at it in the summer, and they know the January market is very difficult but depending on availability and how much their situation changes in terms of injuries and outgoings, they would be primed to make a move.
"I don't think it's about financial restrictions for them, more what's possible for them in that window. A lot of clubs don't want to let their best players go, especially if they're in the Champions League knock-out stages or things like that, but ultimately that has been a position United want to remedy. They have looked at a lot of options, they like Benjamin Sesko, they like Osimhen, they've been waiting to see what happens with Ronaldo but also how Anthony Martial's injury situation develops.
"Ten Hag has repeatedly stated that when Martial is fit, the chemistry between the front three and attacking players is there, it's what he wants to see. United want to replicate that, but with a forward who's available all the time because Martial's injury issues do not leave them any room to be able to bank on him."
Specialist Sports and Media Lawyer Stephen Taylor Heath speaking on Sky Sports News:
"The first thing they will do is look at his [Cristiano Ronaldo] contract. That sets out the rights the club have in relation to responding to conduct which they consider brings the club, or employees of the club, into disrepute.
"They will be discussing whether that conduct amounts to gross misconduct, because the procedures under the employment contract are different depending on whether it reaches that threshold or it is simply a disciplinary matter.
"There is a lot of noise, in terms of external factors, that will play a part in how the club reacts to this matter. But the real matter is whether the comments bring the club into disrepute.
"The fact he has intended an interview under the guise of a club representative means that if his comments reflect badly on the club, then the club will take a decision as to the proportionate way of responding to that.
"They will consider his previous misdemeanours, as to whether or not there is a pattern of behaviour that effectively amounts to grounds for dismissal. If they were to sack him [Ronaldo] for gross misconduct, for example, he would have a certain period of time in which to appeal.
"It may be that they negotiate a settlement agreement, whereby it is termination by mutual agreement. But they will also have to factor in whether they want to terminate his contract at all - if he himself is trying to engineer a departure from the club. That falls into his trap, by sacking him.
"Players at the level of Cristiano Ronaldo don't just have a playing contract. What they do is they split the commercial rights and the playing rights. He will have a separate image rights contract. They will have to look at the grounds for both."