Cristiano Ronaldo's murky endgame
The monthslong drama between Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United reached a new low this week when Ronaldo lashed out at the club in an interview with Piers Morgan.
What they're saying: Ronaldo said he "doesn't respect" manager Erik ten Hag and feels betrayed by the club that "tried to force me out" this summer. He also criticized United’s stagnation over the past decade.
- Man U is reportedly furious and disputes much of what Ronaldo said, per ESPN, including that it was him who sought an exit over the summer — not the other way around.
- Ten Hag has told his bosses that Ronaldo shouldn't play for the club again, sources told ESPN early this morning.
The backdrop: Ronaldo's incendiary comments — which some see as a strategy to force his way off the club that he returned to last year on a two-year, $63 million deal — come after months of drama.
- In the preseason, he failed to report to training on time and didn't join the team on its tour of Thailand and Australia, citing a "family issue" for both absences.
- He's twice left the stadium before the game was over, first during an August friendly and later in an October win over Tottenham, when he refused to come on as a sub — earning a one-game suspension.
By the numbers: When he has played, the 37-year-old hasn't been the dynamo of old, with just three goals and two assists across 16 games. In fact, Man U has been better when he doesn't start.
The big picture: On the eve of the World Cup, one of the best soccer players to ever live is engaged in a highly-publicized standoff with one of the most storied sports teams on the planet.
- Stars struggling in the twilight of their careers is old hat, but this is the world's most-followed human (496 million IG followers) and one of the world's richest clubs ($4.6 billion), amplifying the spectacle.
- Ronaldo's status as an all-timer is unimpeachable, but his legacy is still being carved out, and this latest chapter is forever part of that.
What to watch: Ronaldo's next move could be determined at the World Cup, where he'll lead ninth-ranked Portugal.