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Cristiano Ronaldo set for Manchester United return

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Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the world’s most famous footballers, is set to rejoin Manchester United after the club agreed a deal to buy the Portuguese forward from Italy’s Juventus.

Ronaldo will cost €15m and potentially a further €8m in add-ons, according to a person with knowledge of the transfer. He was finalising personal terms with the club on Friday, Manchester United said.

The deal highlights the enduring appeal of Ronaldo — both on and off the pitch — despite his advancing years. Manchester United’s New York-listed shares rose 7 per cent on Friday, valuing the club at more than $3bn by market capitalisation.

Ronaldo, 36, was the top scorer in Italy’s Serie A last season. He will now look to test himself in England again over a decade since he left Manchester United for Spain’s Real Madrid.

His imminent return to the Premier League marks the latest twist in a remarkable summer for high-profile football transfers. Earlier this month Lionel Messi — Ronaldo’s great rival in the battle to be the world’s greatest footballer — left Barcelona for Qatar-backed Paris Saint-Germain. The Argentine had been at the Spanish club since the age of 13, but was forced to move due its worsening finances.

Ronaldo has won the Ballon d’Or, the top individual accolade in the men’s game, five times, trailing Messi by one.

Despite being in the tail-end of their careers, both players are still considered among the world’s greatest, with the ability to influence matches at the highest level. Both also remain highly attractive to commercial partners, such as sponsors and broadcasters.

A player of Ronaldo’s stature can expect to make hundreds of thousands of pounds per week. United are signing him despite missing out on £150m of revenue as a result of the pandemic, which forced teams to play behind closed doors for the entirety of last season.

Although Manchester United’s finances have suffered from the pandemic, the club has avoided asking shareholders for more capital. It has also continued paying dividends.

However, Juventus on Wednesday approved a €400m equity fundraising, which is expected to complete by the end of the year, to strengthen its balance sheet.

Assuming the transfer goes ahead, subject to agreement on personal terms, medical checks and obtaining a visa, it will mark a reunion with the team where Ronaldo reached global fame, winning the Champions League and three league titles.

During his previous stint at Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo won the Premier League three times and the Champions League once. © Action Images via Reuters

Ronaldo scored 118 goals in 292 games for United from 2003-09, having joined from Portugal’s Sporting Lisbon as an 18-year-old. He went on to win the Champions League a further four times in Madrid.

The signing of Ronaldo is a coup for Manchester United and the Glazer family, which has owned the club since a £790m leveraged buyout in 2005.

The deal could help the Glazers assuage the anger of Manchester United fans, who have protested against the owners because of the cost of servicing the debt and the team’s failure to win the Premier League since the retirement of legendary manager Alex Ferguson in 2013.

The Glazers originally supported the breakaway European Super League, which failed under pressure from fans and politicians within days of its unveiling in April this year.

Despite scoring 101 times for Juventus in 134 appearances, Ronaldo’s departure comes after a season in which the Italian side was unable to take a 10th consecutive Serie A title.

Twelve years since Ronaldo left England, United said: “Everyone at the club looks forward to welcoming Cristiano back to Manchester.”

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