Cristiano Ronaldo is a Juventus player.
No cute metaphor, no sly turn of phrase, nothing, really, could frame the bare truth in a more shocking manner than simply stating the lone fact stripped of frills.
For years now, despite securing Scudetto after Scudetto, despite deep forays into the Champions League including two appearances in the final since 2015, Juventus have remained, definitively, a second-tier club. Not only has the team been unable to lift a Champions League trophy, but the Bianconeri have been forced — by a combination of financial and reputational restraints — to sell top players, most notably Paul Pogba, but others as well.
Bayern Munich, Barcelona, and Real Madrid have remained in a class of their own from a success standpoint, with a few English teams matching their financial capabilities. There’s no need, really, to point out the dominance of these three giants from a footballing perspective, given their track record in domestic and Champions League play for nearly the last decade. There’s no need to point to the fact that all three clubs have tied themselves to global superstars — Lionel Messi, Ronaldo, and, for the Germans, a superstar-by-committee approach. And, finally, there’s no need to point out that Serie A as a league has struggled, not just in top success (an Italian team hasn’t won the UCL for nearly a decade; Juve haven’t won it for much longer) but in terms of proving itself among the top European flights. Serie A can’t boast the Premier League’s money or parity; Serie A can’t boast La Liga’s
Of course, Juve’s well-earned reputation as a wizened pragmatist on the market has done the club well. Beppe Marotta has seemingly mastered the free transfer, the career resuscitator, and the swoop of most Serie A starlets. That’s the club’s mercato bread and butter — or it has been until now.
There are two ways of looking at Juve’s potential acquisition of Ronaldo. Certainly the move is a risk, as Sam pointed out, but beyond that one’s assessment of the value or non-value of CR7 to Juve, the potential or non-potential, is largely defined by perception.
The first view of Ronaldo’s move to Juventus is that, finally, the Bianconeri have finally taken a step — symbolic only at this point, without the Champions League trophies or sustained financial commitments (let alone profits) to follow — to join the realm of the heavy hitters in football. In this optimistic view, signing Ronaldo is nothing short of signing the world’s best footballer who, despite his age (33), shows absolutely no signs of showing down, a player whose on-field production, stellar as it is, matches his marketability, the global economic power he wields.
With this move, Juventus is signaling to the world it’s no longer a cute piece on the side that has to sell major players. In one fell swoop Juventus has demolished its reputation as a wizened, shrewd, careful, cautious, conservative financial outfit.
What’s more, the acquisition of Ronaldo fits with Juve’s recent number of moves, a set of moves that seems, in fact, all about marketability. Juventus isn’t old-school; Juventus boasts a sleek, modern logo and branding. Juventus has a show on Netflix. So why wouldn’t Ronaldo be the next move, financial insanity aside? He’s the polar opposite to Messi — his camera-shy La Liga nemesis.
Adding Ronaldo, then, isn’t some new strategy out of left field, or even a collection of opportune circumstances, but instead the natural culmination of the organization’s movement to modernize.
But there’s another view.
The other view of the situation is that Juventus is overstretching itself financially for an aging superstar who, realistically, has one or two years left of good football, while potentially decimating its current stars — all to cater to the strange, psychotic, egoism of the world’s most self-involved athlete.
In this view, not only does the financial risk outweigh the possible football reward — which is, in a best-case world, a couple Champions League trophies — but the symbolism is off as well. Juventus is abandoning its tested and trusted principles for a player searching for vainglory. Juventus is like the little brother who tries to emulate his cooler brothers by doing something, but then messes up incredibly, breaks something, and gets laughed at ruthlessly. This is a serious danger for Juventus.
If Juventus does, in fact, have to sell off younger valuable assets — Paulo Dybala, specifically — then the move becomes all the more questionable, as, again, Anthony pointed out.
Acquiring Ronaldo is absolutely, terrifically wreckless.
If football were a game played on paper, this move would be unendingly stupid. Disastrous, even. If football were a game of clear-cut statistics and logic, a game of black and white, then this would be a mistake. But football isn’t clear. Football, like most human endeavors, is wrought to the core with symbolism, with an ethos that can’t be quantified, and despite my own personal dislike for Ronaldo — despite a lot of Juventus fans personally disliking Ronaldo — there’s just one thing I can think to say: hell, yes.
Welcome to Turin, Cristiano.