When Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo parted ways with Real Madrid in the summer of 2018, many believed “Los Blancos” would flounder without their talisman while Ronaldo would propel his new club, Juventus, to glory. The reality of the outcome, however, has proven more complicated.
When a superstar player switches teams after several seasons and a handful of championships with one club, suspicions of a falling-out between the player and team immediately arise. Just as Tom Brady’s departure from the New England Patriots after 20 seasons and six Super Bowl rings raised more than a few eyebrows, so too did Ronaldo’s unexpected exit from Real Madrid after nine seasons and a combined 16 domestic and international trophies.
Since his choppy departure from Madrid, all soccer fans’ eyes have been on Ronaldo to see whether he would be able to elevate Juventus to the status of European soccer juggernauts in the same way he propelled Madrid.
Ronaldo’s achievements in the Spanish capital were impressive. Along with earning four Ballon d’Or awards for best player in the world while at Real, Ronaldo led the team to four UEFA Champions League titles — the Everest of all European trophies.
Ronaldo’s achievements with Juventus, remarkable for any other player, have not yet met his world-class standards. Since he arrived at Juve for the 2018-19 season, Juve has not even advanced beyond the UCL quarterfinal round.
Compounding Ronaldo’s recent European woes, earlier this month, he and the Juventus team crashed out of the UCL in the Round of 16 at the hands of Porto. The result marked the second consecutive season the “Bianconeri” bowed out in the Round of 16.
For a Juve team that has won its domestic league — the Italian Serie A — every season since 2011-12, winning the Champions League has always been the ultimate goal. Though the team signed Ronaldo to help take the title, he has not been able to do so. Still, Ronaldo has helped Juve win the Serie A in his first two seasons with the club, which points to his success in his new environment.
This year, however, Ronaldo’s Juve look outmatched even in the Serie A, where it currently sits in third place, ten points behind league leader Inter Milan.
To be sure, Ronaldo has not been the reason for the majority of Juve’s struggles — a carousel of head coaches and a subpar supporting cast, among other factors, pose the greatest challenges — but it is undeniable that his former employer appears better off.
In the immediate wake of Ronaldo’s departure, Real appeared to have gotten the short end of the stick. In 2018-19, its first season without the Portuguese forward, Real seemed to be in a tailspin. It was knocked out in the Round of 16 of the UCL and finished third in La Liga, whereas Ronaldo’s Juve advanced to the quarterfinals of the UCL and won the Serie A by an 11-point margin.
Today, Real seems better positioned for success than Juve. While Juve has stumbled and former players have criticized Ronaldo for his team’s recent deficiencies, Real Madrid has thrived, coolly dispatching Atalanta in the UCL Round of 16 to advance to the quarterfinals and, in La Liga, extending its unbeaten run to eight games. Real Madrid may currently sit at third place in La Liga, six points behind first-place Atletico Madrid, but numbers do not tell the full story of its promising future.
Ronaldo is still one of the top players in the world and among the most prolific goalscorers in Europe, but he finds himself on a Juve team with more questions — about the right coach and the right player personnel — than answers. On the other hand, Real looks destined for success in its post-Ronaldo era, with a foundation of a winning coach, Zinedine Zidane, veteran players, such as Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos and a core of young players like Vinicius Jr., Federico Valverde and Ferland Mendy.
At 36 years old, Ronaldo still has one year left on his contract with Juventus, and he is still very much in his prime. If major trophies continue to elude him at Juventus as he enters what could be the final years of his career, however, he might look back on his decision to leave Real and be reminded of an old warning: “Be careful what you wish for.”
Christian Baldari is a first-year in the College. Bringing the Heat appears online every other week.