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The way forward for Cristiano Ronaldo as he turns 31 this February

What path Ronaldo chooses will only be determined by his success at Real Madrid, where he still has 2 years left on his contract.

cristiano ronaldo
The Portuguese superstar’s contract with the Los Blancos expires in 2018.

As the winter break draws to a close football fans worldwide turn their attention to the transfer window which will bring about player transactions that could conceivably change the course of the season for their clubs. Amidst all the hullaballoo of deals for 16-year-olds and bright future prospects, there are always those few rumours about the megastars of global football. One which has been doing the rounds in the upper echelons of the European game is whether Cristiano Ronaldo, the Miracle from Madeira, will stay on at Real Madrid or not.

Cristiano Ronaldo has always been more than just an on-field sensation. There has always been a whirlwind of speculation and awe around his entire persona. Be it his dating life, or his family, or his endorsement of his very own underwear brand, the Portuguese skipper is an asset to whichever outfit he turns out for. Not only with his precision and prowess on the pitch but with his all round ability to just attract publicity.  It was always that way at Manchester United. And it has become even more glaringly conspicuous during his time in the Spanish Capital.

But on 5th February 2016, CR7, as he known to his ardent fan base, will turn 31. An age when a footballer generally begins to dread that his legs will soon wear out. Where he begins to become wary of the fact that his speed and stamina are going to recede. The age when one realises that it will soon time to take some major decisions regarding the course of their careers.

There has long been speculation that Ronaldo would like to return to Manchester United, the side where under Sir Alex Fergurson’s tutelage, he developed into a global phenomenon. The Red Devils are seemingly in troublesome waters and have been looking to buy back their icon through the last few transfer windows. The question arises here, whether Ronaldo will be able to readjust to the physicality of the English game quick enough to make the kind of instant impact United are looking for.

Over the last couple of seasons, Ronaldo’s dazzling style of play has been on the decline.

cristiano ronaldo
Ronaldo’s set piece abilities have been seriously questioned in the last year.

His scintillating footwork and precision free kicks have certainly been diminishing in quality, to an extent that even his most loyal supporters have questioned whether he remains the same force he was few years back. While his goal scoring prowess has never come into question, it is beginning to seem like he’s losing some of his flares.

At a platform like the English Premier League, it will only be more difficult for Ronaldo to even try resuming his all-round potency, considering that defences are stronger, the game is far more intense and there is far less disparity between the teams in the upper and lower rungs of the table.

The other prospective move away from the Bernabeu would have to be a lucrative transfer to the French Capital. Paris Saint-Germain has always been great admirers of Ronaldo’s style of play, and with the club still considered to be the dark horses of European football, they could do with some support from the brand name that the Portuguese superstar brings with him. They certainly have the financial capabilities to prize Ronaldo to France. However, Ronaldo has always maintained that he would prefer to ply his trade in a league where there is serious competition as far as title contention is concerned. In that case, would the French Ligue 1 be his preferred destination? One would think not.

The fact of the matter is, it is difficult to conceive what kind of player Ronaldo will develop into as he ages. As his body undergoes the serious wear and tear the early 30s bring, it is crucial that Ronaldo’s role in whichever side he plays for is mapped out well in advance.

One cannot picture him receding into a more passive midfield role, having seen flashy footwork and goal-scoring supremacy over the last decade or so. Unlike wingers like Ryan Giggs, Ronaldo will never be able to effortlessly slip into a less dynamic passing role as he ages.

So as yet another season passes by, the fate of one of modern football's greatest icons will become exceedingly more unclear. What path Ronaldo chooses will only be determined by his happiness and success at Real Madrid, where he still has 2 years left on his contract. He also expressed how he’d possibly like to conclude his achievement-studded career in America, in the MLS. 

It is better, for us as mortal worshippers of his sublime abilities, to sit back and enjoy the Cristiano Ronaldo magic while it endures, and look back on one of the greatest sporting stories of all time, once he finally decides to hang up his boots.  

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