Cristiano Ronaldo’s desire to leave Juventus can’t come as a surprise, but it’s happening so quickly and suddenly because he was allowed to be bigger than the club, writes Lorenzo Bettoni.
A new era begins for the Old Lady as Cristiano Ronaldo is set to leave the Bianconeri after three seasons, 134 games and 101 goals in a black and white shirt.
Apparently, it’s all happening in a matter of days, but the reality is Cristiano has wanted to leave Juventus for a long time and it was impossible not to notice it. Back in May, Football Italia wrote the Portuguese star was likely to leave Turin in the summer, and not just because he had moved his supercars from his property in the city.
Andrea Pirlo had replaced him in the final minutes of the game against Inter and Ronaldo spent the last minutes of the most important match of the season inside the dressing room rather than on the bench, like all his teammates.
One week later, he would spend the entire game against Bologna on the bench and after the end of the season, prior to the beginning of UEFA Euro 2020, he wrote one of his most selfish Instagram posts, listing his records in Italy and thanking everybody for the journey.
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In all this, Juventus acted like a lover who knows they’re being betrayed, but are not strong enough to react. Why? Because Ronaldo was allowed to be bigger than the club since the very first day he moved to the Allianz Stadium.
He was allowed to do things the others couldn’t do and it’s always been this way. When Maurizio Sarri replaced him in a home game against Milan, Ronaldo was fuming and walked straight inside the dressing room, leaving the stadium even before the game was finished. Paulo Dybala, the man who had come in to replace him, eventually scored the winner for the Bianconeri. But that made little difference inside Ronaldo’s mind. The club didn’t do anything to prevent that attitude from the most important player on the team and the highest earner inside the dressing room.
In the second part of the season, after the COVID pandemic, the Portuguese would often miss Sarri’s tactical sessions at Continassa, and with Pirlo in charge, things didn’t go any better. The game against Inter in May was the only one where he was replaced for a tactical reason.
After the game against Cagliari in March, a few days on from Juventus’ Champions League elimination at hands of Porto, he refused to talk to the press after scoring a decisive hat-trick. The day after Juventus’ 3-0 defeat against Milan, which appeared to be a decisive blow in the Bianconeri’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League, he was accompanied by Andrea Agnelli and John Elkann to the Ferrari factory in Maranello, while all his teammates where training at Continassa.
Video: Ronaldo leaves Juventus’ training ground for the last time
His teammates felt he had been treated differently. Back in May, La Gazzetta dello Sport wrote Ronaldo felt isolated inside the dressing room, in part because he was allowed to do things his teammates couldn’t do. COVID restrictions also offered an example of it. This past January, he went to Courmayeur with his girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez, crossing the borders of the Region of Piemonte despite restrictions which allowed to do so only in case of emergency or working reasons. Ronaldo may have had a good reason to do so, but that was never made public and Pirlo justified the trip by saying that a player can do what he wants during his day off.
Trouble is, three of his teammates, Paulo Dybala, Arthur and Weston McKenniem also broke COVID rules in April, attending a party inside the house of the American midfielder. At that time, there was a nationwide curfew in place, from 10pm to 5am and it was forbidden to organise private parties.
Of course, attending a party is not the same as going to the mountain alone with your girlfriend, but on paper they had all broke COVID rules. The difference is that the trio was fined and left out of the derby against Torino, while Ronaldo faced no consequences.
La Gazzetta dello Sport wrote on Friday morning that Juventus gave to Ronaldo more than what he gave to the club. That is true, despite his 101 goals in three years. However, it is also true that the Old Lady has part of the responsibility because Ronaldo was allowed to do almost anything he wanted. It’s not that he was unprofessional, but he acted as somebody who is bigger than the club and he was allowed to do so.
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Many Juventus fans didn’t, or didn’t want, to believe he wanted to leave even when Ronaldo made that selfish post on Instagram to react to the latest rumour linking him with a return to Real Madrid. News, by the way, which was broken by his close friend Edu Aguirre, with whom he had spent a considerable part of his summer holidays.
Looking back, that may have been his last, desperate, attempt to return to the Spanish capital. Cristiano reacted, demanding respect for his former club, but never mentioned Juventus, nor said he wanted to stay. However, many saw it as proof he absolutely wanted to stay in Turin. That was clearly not the case.
So, it can’t came as a surprise that Ronaldo wanted to leave Juventus and that he did it in this fashion. His agent Jorge Mendes even tried to arrange for him to leave for free to join a club that had offered €176m to sign Harry Kane. That was too much, even for Juventus.