Will Cristiano Ronaldo’s ’Last Dance’ at Manchester United end in triumph?
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NOW that the British & Irish Lions tour and Tokyo Olympics are over, and Cricket South Africa continues to grapple with its racist past, the focus is squarely on the beautiful game again.
The local Premiership and English Premier League may be on a short break due to the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, but it has come just at the right time for everyone to catch their breath after one of the craziest silly seasons yet.
It is the movement of 11-time Ballon d’Or winners Lionel Messi (6) and Cristiano Ronaldo (5) that has simply blown everyone away.
Messi’s departure from Barcelona after 21 years is undoubtedly the culmination of an era at the Nou Camp. Xavi and Andres Iniesta, along with Ronaldinho, may be imprinted in Barca’s folklore, but the Catalan team’s dynasty began and ended with the little Argentine.
The numbers are staggering: 672 goals and 306 assists.
But Messi was worth so much more to Barcelona. His intelligence on and off the ball, electric burst of speed when scything past defenders and legendary vision to pick a pass through the eye of a needle had even opposition fans purring.
It is these characteristics that “The Atomic Flea” will bring to his new club Paris SaintGermain.
And despite being 34-years-old, Messi has arrived in the French capital with the motivation to show his former employers that their break-up was premature.
Furthermore, the fire will be burning within Messi to lead PSG to the promised land of Champions League glory – a stage that was once his personal playground.
This is in complete contrast to his former “El Clasico” rival Ronaldo’s transfer to Manchester United from Juventus.
The nostalgia may be in overflow at Old Trafford at the moment, with Ronaldo returning to the club that gave birth to the “CR7” legend, but those expecting the twinkle-toed displays of yesteryear are best advised to search the YouTube archive.
Even a Liverpool supporter like myself can respect the romanticism of Ronaldo emerging from the tunnel at the Theatre of Dreams in the home strip again – even more so for the fact that he was prized away from cross-town rivals Manchester City.
Ronaldo will score goals, and when he leaps into the air to perform his trademark pirouette celebration for the first time, the shrieks of delight will reverberate all the way from Manchester to Madrid. But will Ronaldo make United a better football team? Unfortunately, no.
Ronaldo’s former teammate-turned-manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer already has an array of attacking talent to choose from.
The tortured genius Paul Pogba seems finally to have settled into a rhythm, while Bruno Fernandes now pulls the strings - and takes the penalties - at Old Trafford.
Solskjaer also has the option of calling on the youthful exuberance of £73 million close season signing Jadon Sancho and Mason Greenwood.
United’s needs revolve around acquiring a central midfielder to execute Solskjaer’s tactics. And not a 36-year-old that plays to his own tune.
Ronaldo’s return to the red half of Manchester has been likened to Michael Jordan’s homecoming at the Chicago Bulls, after the basketball superstar’s dalliance with baseball.
The irony is not lost on anyone that Ronaldo will also not wear his famed No 7 and instead have a different number on his back – just like Jordan did not run out in his No 23 initially.
But unfortunately, this Last Dance will not have the same triumphant ending as Ronaldo will struggle to hit those same high notes again in his second coming.