LONDON: Cristiano Ronaldo is searching for a new team after a tumultuous few hours at Manchester United, during which they announced the superstar forward was leaving and the club could be sold.
The veteran Portugal forward set the stage for his Old Trafford exit last week with an outspoken interview on TalkTV, in which he said he felt “betrayed” by the club and had no respect for new manager Erik ten Hag.
There was clearly no way back for Ronaldo and United issued a statement on Tuesday confirming they were parting ways with one of the greatest players in their history by “mutual agreement, with immediate effect”.
Ronaldo, currently at the World Cup in Qatar, issued a statement of his own, declaring his love for the club and saying it “feels like the right time” to seek a new challenge.
As well as lashing out against United and Ten Hag, the 37-year-old was scathing about the club’s unpopular US owners in his interview with Piers Morgan.
Ronaldo said the Glazer family, who loaded the club with huge debts when they bought it in 2005, cared more about the money-making potential of United than results.
Hours after the statement confirming Ronaldo was exiting the club, United issued another bulletin saying the Americans were considering selling up.
Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand, who played alongside Ronaldo at United, said both parties had got what they wanted.
“Cristiano obviously did that interview with the mindset that he wasn’t happy and wanted to get out of the club,” Ferdinand told the BBC. “He made that very clear.
“I think Erik ten Hag got what he wanted in this situation as well. Both parties are happy and we can move on.”
The problem for Ronaldo is that leading English and European clubs opted against moving for him in the summer transfer window despite his desire to leave Old Trafford.
They will likely be even warier now, having witnessed his erratic behaviour.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner, who recently scored his 700th club goal, is a fading force yet still commanded a huge reported weekly pay packet at United of around Â£500,000 ($595,000).
He has reportedly held talks with Bayern Munich and has been linked with an emotional return to Sporting Lisbon, where he came through the youth ranks.
Ronaldo said he was offered a two-year deal worth $360 million by a Saudi Arabian club and remains insistent there is interest from Europe’s top clubs.
Should a European side fail to come calling, a move to the United States is a possibility.
The Portugal star made his name in his first spell at Old Trafford, developing from a raw but prodigiously gifted teenager into one of the world’s deadliest forwards.
He won three Premier League titles and the Champions League at United but left in 2009 after six years for Real Madrid, where he became the club’s greatest goalscorer, winning the Champions League four more times.
Ronaldo spent three years at Juventus from 2018 before a sensational return to Manchester last year.
But he joined a club that had long lost its status as top dog in England and has been trophyless since 2017.
Ronaldo finished third in the Premier League goalscoring charts with 18 goals but has been a peripheral figure this season, scoring just three times in all competitions.
He was recently disciplined for refusing to come on as a substitute as the relationship began to unravel.
The World Cup, where Portugal launch their campaign on Thursday against Ghana, is surely Ronaldo’s last chance to win the trophy and crown a glorious career.
It could also be his final opportunity to show he can still perform at the highest level.