Ferguson, whom Ronaldo has often referred to as a “father figure,” acquired the Portuguese attacker from Sporting Lisbon in 2003, and over six seasons together, the two combined to win three Premier League titles, the FA Cup, two League Cups and the Champions League.
Even after Ronaldo joined Real Madrid for a world-record transfer fee in 2009, he continued to speak highly of both Ferguson and Manchester United, and as recently as December, Ferguson hinted that a move to bring Ronaldo back to Old Trafford wasn’t out of the question, telling reporters he’d “love to see” the 28-year-old return to the club (via the Guardian).
“You never know,” he said, adding, “I don’t know when his contract finishes. He may want to go to another club at some point in his career, and I’d hope he would want to come here. But that’s a long way off.”
Speculation that Ronaldo also fancied an Old Trafford return only increased, as the winger put off agreeing a contract extension at the Bernabeu this season, and just two days before he announced his retirement, Ferguson revealed the owners were willing to make a big splash in the summer transfer market.
“Everything is in place for a big signing,” he said. “I think that the [Glazer family that owns the club] have been great. “Whenever I have asked, they have delivered. If I ask to go for a certain player, I think they will do that,” he said (via the Mirror).
But with Ferguson set to retire as manager, would Ronaldo even consider a return?
On Thursday, Real Madrid assistant Aitor Karanka insisted the club’s top scorer would be best served by remaining in the Spanish capital, saying, “[Ronaldo] will keep getting better. Here is the ideal place, and for Real Madrid it is great to have him” (via BBC).
Maybe so, and while Ronaldo did score his 200th goal for Madrid (in 197 matches) on Wednesday against Malaga, it has long been thought that he is very much outside the club establishment, on the outskirts of the group of players the Madridistas fancy—namely Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso.
This lack of affection may well have been behind his famous non-celebration of a goal back in September, after which he told the press he was “sad,” and that the club knew why he was not happy.
But it was his agent’s comments in the days after that provided some much-needed illumination.
In a statement, Jorge Mendes revealed he had been aware of Ronaldo’s feelings for some time and said that his client was “at liberty to divulge them” if he wished (per the Telegraph).
He added, “These comments have not surprised me and certainly not upset me. Those who know the relationship I have with Ronaldo know that he can always count on my solidarity.”
Incidentally, shortly after Ferguson’s retirement announcement, it was revealed United chief executive David Gill had recently travelled to Madrid to speak with Mendes in person (Daily Mail).
Given Ronaldo’s fondness for his former manager, it’s possible the trip was meant to help convince the player that although Ferguson would no longer be in charge of the team, the club would still be operating according to the template he spent more than a quarter-century installing.
And while Ferguson will no longer be patrolling the touchline on matchdays, he is set to become a director at the club and will only be a telephone call, or even a short walk down the hall, away.
What has become apparent is that Ronaldo, much like his current manager, Jose Mourinho, craves affection. And he’d get it in abundance if he returned to United.
Ferguson may no longer be in charge, but Ronaldo’s return is as likely as it ever was.