Where will Cristiano Ronaldo go after the World Cup? Heading to Italy?

It has been announced that Cristiano Ronaldo will be leaving Manchester United with immediate effect, but where will he go? The Portuguese superstar’s second act at Old Trafford is over after the club terminated his contract by mutual agreement following his shock interview with Piers Morgan. Ronaldo will now be free to find another club after returning from the World Cup in Qatar.

The level of interest the 37-year-old can expect depends on the sources. Sources close to United claim he has been available since the summer but they have only received one approach from a club in Saudi Arabia, which Ronaldo has turned down. Ronaldo’s representatives, however, maintained that he had a number of options and that negotiations broke down during the last transfer window because United demanded a large sum.

But now that’s no longer a problem, and it will be up to Ronaldo to decide what he wants to do with the remaining years of what is already a glittering career.

Besides the fact that he implied to Morgan that he “would retire immediately” should Portugal win this World Cup, Ronaldo says he wants to play until he is 40, which would bring him to the end of the 2024-25 season. Ultimately, the two key questions when deciding his next move are what he wants to accomplish and how much money he wants to make.

The salary problem

His weekly salary at Old Trafford was £500,000 plus bonuses, and if he makes the same demands at his next club there would only be a handful that could even make it to the negotiating table. Paris Saint-Germain is one, but it already has Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappé and Neymar in its squad. Chelsea is another; new owner Todd Boehly met Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes in the summer, but it’s unclear if head coach Graham Potter is ready to bring Ronaldo into his squad. Chelsea’s brief interest over the summer ended as soon as then-manager Thomas Tuchel dismissed the idea.

Another option would be for Ronaldo to sacrifice the chance to play in the Champions League and accept a lucrative move to the Middle East. Saudi Arabia’s overall offer this summer would have guaranteed almost £350million, but the price to pay would be accepting that his career at the highest level is over. The same goes for a move to MLS and, potentially, David Beckham’s Inter Miami.

The market for Ronaldo’s services only widens if he is ready to accept a lower salary. His first club, Sporting CP, would jump at the chance for a romantic comeback but, in October, coach Ruben Amorim said he “didn’t have the money to pay his salary”. Ronaldo, of course, can solve this problem himself.

Ronaldo to Italy?

Sources have told ESPN that Italian club Napoli have also been interested in him in the past, a club always associated with their fanatical support for another of football’s greatest players: Diego Maradona. Napoli could offer a Champions League spot as early as February when they face Eintracht Frankfurt in the round of 16 but, again, Ronaldo would have to compromise on his salary demands.

As soon as United learned of Ronaldo’s interview with Morgan almost a week ago and his fierce criticism of the club and manager Erik ten Hag, the ball was in their court as to how to react. Ten Hag, co-chairman Joel Glazer, general manager Richard Arnold and director of football John Murtough agreed it was time to force his departure.

His main decision is to know what he wants to accomplish before hanging up the cleats. His incredible ability is waning in his 22nd career year, but his 24 goals in all competitions for United last season prove he is still capable of scoring at the highest level.

If Ronaldo decides he wants a final salary after leaving Old Trafford, we may have already seen the last of him in European football. But if he chooses football over pay, then there could be another successful chapter in a career that already boasts 701 club goals, five Champions League medals and domestic titles in three different countries.

Ronaldo will no longer play for United. What happens next is up to the player and how they want to bow out in a sport they’ve already led domestically.

Where will Cristiano Ronaldo go after the World Cup? Heading to Italy?