Italian fans and press would love to be debating their team’s World Cup quarter-final right now. Lorenzo Insigne cutting in behind Andrea Belotti? Can Andrea Barzagli squeeze 120 minutes out of his ageing body?
Fanciful rumours are a fun part of football, and Serie A does it as well as anyone. Twelve summers ago it was Ronaldinho to Napoli. Three years back people talked up Lionel Messi to Inter. Such talk is usually labelled ‘science fiction’ here, a more diplomatic way of saying ‘utter nonsense.’
Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus has moved beyond what is termed ‘science fiction’ in Italy
Real and Juve are in talks over the 33-year-old superstar moving to Serie A this summer
Ronaldo made his mark against Juve last season with his sensational overhead kick
Over the last 48 hours the most common question among supporters of all ages (and journalists) has been ‘is CR7 to Juve science fiction?’ The answer is simple: no.
The various parties have spoken to each other. The wheels are moving and the collective imagination of a football-mad country is flying.
The realists are pondering the financial side of a deal. It is certainly true that his salary might be a sticking point, but not beyond a solution. The wannabe tacticians are keen to learn where the Portuguese star would fit in. Children are asking why it’s taking so long. Everyone is fascinated by this development.
Ronaldo already has a good relationship with the fans after they applauded his wonder goal
The numbers involved don’t appear to worry the Serie A champions. Spending over €100m (£88.5m) for a 33-year-old is not a classic Juve move. The Bianconeri are a very tightly-run business who don’t throw their money around. They leave the costly recruitment of so-called ‘Fancy Dans’ to others.
But this isn’t any old thirty-something with expensive, snazzy jeans, a garage full of super cars and a monstrous portfolio of sponsors. His marketing power and reach is phenomenal, unlike anyone in calcio since Brazilian namesake Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima was in his pomp at Inter. Top brass in Turin are convinced they can make outrageous amounts of cash back via merchandising, advertising and the pure prestige of ‘CR7’.
Juventus are the most supported team in Italy. They boast fans north, east, south and west, and on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. Walking around the peninsular you meet Bianconeri supporters every ten seconds. You see their famous black and white shirts everywhere. Think Manchester United during their peak under Sir Alex Ferguson, then times it by 20.
With Gianluigi Buffon gone, Ronaldo would bring superstar quality to Juve and Serie A
Whether you are fashion shopping in Milan, enjoying the bustle of Rome, sampling the heat and cuisine down south in Puglia and Calabria, or island-hopping, you see the legendary garment based on Notts County. If this switch comes off, there will be ‘Ronaldo 7’ tops everywhere, and not just on those who aren’t old enough to shave. Then there is their army of followers in the rest of the world.
Naturally, you can’t put a spreadsheet or receipts from worldwide megastores in attack in a crucial Champions League tie. Will the former Red Devil be able to perform on the pitch?
Ex-Juve midfielder Alessio Tacchinardi told TV programme Mondiali Mediaset: ‘He has become lethal over the last few years up front. He is still mobile, he moves well. With another forward, maybe Paulo Dybala attacking the spaces, he could form a great duo. He’s got the physique to integrate into our league perfectly.
‘Ronaldo is still hungry, determined to be number one, even at the age of 33. He’s an animal. Playing up front he’d score an ocean of goals. He wants to improve every day and work very hard – in other words he would fit in at Juve.’
Serie A hasn’t had a world icon outfield player since Andrea Pirlo left Juventus in 2015
The last time the five-time Ballon d’Or winner docked in Turin he made quite the impression. His overhead kick in the quarter-final first leg of last year’s Champions League earned a standing ovation from the home fans. That genuinely touched Ronaldo, who has been subjected to almost two decades of less friendly exchanges with opposing supporters.
If he signs for the Vecchia Signora he will already have the respect of everyone within the Juventus Stadium, and he’ll bring exposure and new attention from abroad. Leaving aside goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, Serie A hasn’t had a world icon outfield player since Andrea Pirlo left in 2015. However, the Portuguese powerhouse might unbalance an already non-competitive league.
Juve have won seven championships in a row. They have done the league and cup double for four consecutive seasons. Napoli and Roma have tried bravely to rip the scudetto from them, but failed heroically.
With no World Cup for Italy this year, the possibility of Ronaldo coming has excited a nation
Adding Cristiano Ronaldo would make the Bianconeri even more omnipotent. There is one theory that he would be used mainly in the Champions League and sit out less glamorous domestic fixtures, but that doesn’t feel like a very Juventus or Ronaldo-style thing to do.
Juve are desperate to be kings of Europe once again. Since their last Champions League victory in 1996 they have lost an agonising five finals. There aren’t many players with more know-how in the tournament than CR7, who won it in 2008, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Attention snaps back to the World Cup on Friday, but this proposed move will still generate headlines and dominate airtime. Ronaldo’s time with Real is drawing to an acrimonious close. Will he console himself in the arms of Italy’s Old Lady?
The best writers in the business are working quietly behind the scenes to convert this science fiction story into a Turin-based romance.