In 2018, Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid were on a roll. They may have suffered domestically, only winning La Liga in 2011–12 and 2016–17 but they were the undisputed kings of Europe. Prior to 2017, no team had won back to back Champions League trophies. Prior to 2018, no team had won three consecutive Champions League trophies. Real Madrid did both, and in the process won the tournament four times in five years. Of course, Real Madrid won five consecutive European Cups from 1955–60, but this was before the tournament’s rebranding into the Champions League. What’s more, the club seemed poised for more success in the future. That was before the double whammy. First manager Zinedine Zidane left, then Ronaldo followed.
Yes, on this day 3 years ago, Ronaldo surprised everyone by joining Juventus. But how did it happen? What caused this sudden turn of events? We look at the back story.
Cristiano Ronaldo for Juventus – not a spontaneous decision
The relatively hasty manner in which the move was made led many to believe that it was a sudden, last-minute departure. However, the truth of the matter is something else.
Ronaldo was already unhappy in the Spanish capital. One reason was that he was embroiled in tax fraud charges, which caused him great grief.
The other – and arguably more important – factor was his relationship with Real president Fiorentino Pérez. Ronaldo reportedly asked the president for a pay raise given his role in the club’s success. Perez didn’t say clearly.
This enraged Ronaldo, who was also enraged upon hearing that the club would be willing to pay more money to sign Neymar – someone who plays in the same position as Ronaldo.
According to former Real president Ramon Calderón, Pérez originally told Ronaldo to get him a check for 100 million euros from a club if he wanted to leave. Juventus did exactly that, completing a signing no one thought possible.
But given that many in the upper echelons of the football world knew it, how come there was no interest from elsewhere? Well, it turns out there actually was.
Former club Manchester United were interested but reportedly did not move fast enough to complete the deal. Paris Saint-Germain also wanted to sign him but were limited by Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules. This is because they signed both Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for astronomical sums.
As a result, Juventus had a clear run to sign one of the greatest players of all time. And of course, they made the deal.
Who said what on the transfer?
Ronaldo himself explained his move in an interview with France Football later that year. While at first he said he left because he wanted a new challenge, he left the French publication because of issues with Pérez.
Ronaldo had said, “I felt within the club, especially from the president, that I was no longer treated the way I was at the beginning.”
“For the first four or five years, I felt like Cristiano Ronaldo. less after that. The President looked at me in such a way that I was no longer indispensable, if you know what I mean. That’s what made me think of leaving.”
He also denied that the move was motivated by money. “If it was all about money, I would have moved to China, where I would earn five times more than here (at Juventus) or in Real.
“I didn’t come to Juve for the money. I earned as much in Madrid, if not more.
Perez, for his part, believes that this was due to the fact that he was denied a salary increase in Real.
He told Onda Cerro in May 2019, “There were rumors about him wanting to leave because of the tax matter, but that is not the reality of the situation.”
“He wanted a change and wanted to improve his contract, so he found it at Juventus and everyone was happy.”
How did the trick go?
Cristiano Ronaldo has added to his collection of trophies in his three years at the club. They have won two Serie A titles and one Coppa Italia, the equivalent of one trophy per season.
Juventus also won the only Supercoppa Italia during that time. However, there is also a view that Ronaldo’s move has not been successful enough.
It’s definitely not down to the player. But the main reason for bringing him in was to help the team win Champions League glory – something that has not happened so far.
Of course, the blame for this would lie with the upper management, who failed to put together a team capable of challenging for top honours. The rollercoaster managerial position hasn’t helped either.
In his three seasons in Turin, Ronaldo has played under three different managers – all of whom promote different styles. He started out under the pragmatic Massimiliano Allegri, then spent a season under the poised Maurizio Sarri.
Andrea Pirlo then surprisingly got the job in 2020 but his timing is widely regarded as unsuccessful. And yet, there remains some doubt over Ronaldo’s future at Juventus.
The rumor mill has constantly linked him with a move. Whether he stays at the club to try to win the Champions League or move on remains to be seen.