So, you’ve heard?
For years now, Cristiano Ronaldo has been the source of unending, online rumour-mill click bait. Many of us can plead guilty to opening an ad-filled screen freezer thanks to the lure of CR7’s next move. In the 10 or-so separate occasions where PSG all but “landed their star man”, or when “enhanced discussions” took place regarding his return to Manchester filled out news feeds, for a brief moment, we (prematurely) held our breath.
However, in the first week of July 2018, the bait had a bite. Several credible news outlets began reporting of very serious talks taking place between Cristiano and Juventus. The ensuing saga was short lived as Real Madrid would make their superstar’s departure official in a club statement released on the morning of July 10th. La Vecchia Signora pulled off what many, including Madrid’s infamous Marca, have coined ‘the signing of the century’.
For Ronaldo, it is another feather in his cap. He continues a sparkling career at the highest level; one which will see him wear the colours of yet another global powerhouse. Though, do not expect him to fashion a later-age beard in the way Andrea Pirlo did…he will be at his sharpest for his Netflix debut.
For Juventus, it is an almighty statement of intent. There is no sign of the club slowing down in a league they are already well-versed in dominating. Furthermore, its directors firmly see the Portuguese’s arrival as something of an economic stimulus package destined to succeed.
But what can all this mean for the division? The Italian Serie A has been absent of a bona fide star for years. Calcio’s struggle to maintain continental relevance has, unfortunately, been central to the narrative surrounding the league as a whole for some time now – the contributing factors to which are plenty.
Among the recent cases of trial and error faced by the likes of Roma, Napoli, and the Milan sides, Juventus have proven to be the steady hand of success. Two Champions League finals in three seasons and seven consecutive domestic crowns will do that for your reputation. In Ronaldo, lega president Gaetano Micciché must believe a league-wide reincarnation has officially begun.
The waves Ronaldo has sent across the globe before ever pulling on the bianconeri strip are remarkable and truly befitting of the international icon he has become. Some of these include Fiat employees threatening strike, US Serie A rights holders scrambling to outbid each other for long-term deals, a local Torinese gelato shop owner naming a new flavour after the striker, and, most startling, the club witnessing a 16-month high in its stock trading value.
To find the last time Italian football was under such starlight, we need to look back to the summer of 1997.
Ronaldo da Lima, or O Fenômeno as he is affectionately referred to, was one of the finest talents to grace the 1990s. It was no stretch to suggest that the Brazilian striker was the best the game had seen since Diego Maradona put his playing days behind him. Two sensational seasons at PSV Eindhoven had the elites clamouring for his signature, one he eventually handed to FC Barcelona. His remarkable performances in his stand alone season at the Camp Nou earned him the Ballon d’or in 97’.
In what was the next genuine superstar blossoming in front of their eyes going in to a World Cup year, Barcelona must have believed they had struck gold with Ronaldo filling the role of becoming a franchise player for years to come. What followed was quite the opposite. After contract negotiations turned sour, agent-impresario Giovanni Branchini was forced to cut ties with the Catalonian club.
Meanwhile, an Inter Milan side under the new leadership of Massimo Moratti saw this as the perfect opportunity to lay down a marker. In many ways, the Serie A of the 80s and 90s was a megastar’s preferred choice, so what happened next seemed a natural progression. Ronaldo penned a then-world record transfer deal to join the Nerazzurri. At that moment, Italy was home to the world’s most expensive and most talented footballer. Had injuries played a lesser role, Ronaldo was amassing all the tools to live out an extended reign atop football’s best while in Italy. His brilliance inspired those around him to elevate their play; a knock-on effect which saw the likes of Alessandro Del Piero, Christian Vieri, and Gabriel Batistuta (among others) yield their best production at club level.
It’s that last point that could be the light on the horizon for Italian football today. Cristiano Ronaldo will no doubt seek to better the shine left behind by his namesake. In a recent interview with Goal, former Madrid teammate Mesut Özil shed light on how exactly Ronaldo’s influence rubbed off by stating, “His ambition, how hungry for success he is, as a player, you’re always quite similar”. This increased desire to compete among his teammates will certainly be matched by those seeking to stop him.
Several proven winners have turned out wonderful careers in Serie A, but just as many have either left the league or the sport all together. Not since 2013 has the Serie A had a striker or midfielder represented in the top 10 of voting for the Ballon d’Or – that man was Andrea Pirlo, who, at the time, was also playing for Juventus.
The season ahead will provide a stern freshman test for Ronaldo. Roma will look to mount more pressure on the champions as Monchi’s operation sees 10 new recruits arrive at Trigoria. Napoli will be eager to go one step further from last season’s near-fantasy while an improved Inter Milan look to find consistency among the top four.
Juventus’ new talisman is about to embark on a fresh challenge. Win or lose, this season will be all about CR7.