Manchester United are unsure whether Cristiano Ronaldo will fly out with the team on Friday for their pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia.
The 37-year-old has not reported back to training at Carrington, citing family reasons, which the club have accepted.
Ronaldo’s absence comes amid informing United he wants to leave Old Trafford this summer if a suitable offer arrives.
Ronaldo was due to re-join his team-mates on Monday, but has instead been keeping fit at Portugal’s training base – Cidade do Futebol – for the past few days.
Sky Sports News has been told Ronaldo’s agent, Jorge Mendes, has spent the past few weeks selling the ‘Cristiano effect’ to clubs having compiled a dossier of his client’s immense sponsorship, social media and ‘new markets’ influence.
Chelsea co-owner Todd Boehly is among the executives to listen to the pitch and is considering a move.
Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Napoli have also been engaged and while United insist Ronaldo is not for sale, that stance is expected to soften if a proposal from an overseas team is presented.
The club do not want the situation to overshadow Erik ten Hag’s pre-season work or incomings, with full-back Tyrell Malacia set to be unveiled and Christian Eriksen verbally committing to join.
A basic agreement is in place with Barcelona for Frenkie de Jong, while advanced negotiations continue for Lisandro Martinez.
Talks have also taken place with Ajax for forward Antony, but new boss Alfred Schreuder indicated: “He has a contract until 2025. I want to work with him, and the club knows this.”
Ten Hag will have to expand his attacking targets if Ronaldo does exit with the club already concerned by their lack of goalscoring threat heading into the new campaign.
Ronaldo scored 24 times across all competitions last term, but United recorded their lowest-ever Premier League points tally.
If he misses the tour, it will be viewed as spelling the end of the Portugal international’s second stint at the club.
United begin their pre-season schedule against Liverpool in Bangkok next Tuesday, before friendlies with Melbourne City, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa in Australia.
Where is Ronaldo and who can afford him?
Portuguese football expert Pedro Sepulveda speaking on Sky Sports News:
“Ronaldo was in Lisbon last Friday. He is staying in an hotel – he has many apartments here in Portugal – but he is staying in a hotel and he is training all day in the complex where the Portuguese national team always train. Every day he goes there and does his training, sometimes alone. On Saturday he went with some friends, on Friday he went there alone. He took some pictures with some young Portugal players who stay in that training ground. Yesterday evening, we thought he was going to Manchester to take part in pre-season training but we learned this morning he has some personal terms to take care of.
“The big question now is whether Ronaldo will stay here in Lisbon taking care of these things or whether it is a momentary thing and he will fly to Manchester in the next few days to be with his team-mates and wait to see how the future goes for him.
“I think Ronaldo will stay in Lisbon for a few more days and Jorge Mendes will try and force the transfer for him.
“If you look at the teams that can give Ronaldo a contract, there aren’t many. Nor are there many teams who can compete for the Champions League. You have Bayern Munich who have said Ronaldo is not part of their project. In Spain, you have Real Madrid and you can’t put Barcelona in the race. Ronaldo will never play for Barcelona and Real Madrid isn’t interested in a player like Ronaldo anymore.
“In England is the only place I could see some opportunities – but can you see Ronaldo playing in the Premier League with another shirt that’s not Man United? Can he be on another team? You have Liverpool and Chelsea – we already know the new Chelsea owner had a conversation with Jorge Mendes about Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I don’t think we have to talk about the financials, look at the money he already has. It’s not about the money, it’s about the project. Ronaldo can play a season for Sporting Lisbon for not now. He is still at the top level and one of the best players in the world. Not for what he has done, but what he is doing now. I think Sporting Lisbon is a possibility for Ronaldo but not now. Ronaldo will only leave for a club that can fight for the Champions League. Sporting will have to wait but Ronaldo has the desire to play in United States too. It’s a possibility in the future but not for this transfer window. These teams are in Ronaldo’s head and they’re in the fight for him.”
Speaking at the beginning of June, Ronaldo said he was “very happy” to remain at United and predicted they would rebound from a dreadful 2021/22 season.
But just one month later, the Portugal captain has had a change of heart. Sky Sports looks at the reasons for and against his potential departure.
The 37-year-old returned to Manchester last summer – 12 years after originally leaving for Real Madrid – and netted 24 goals in 38 games to finish as the club’s top scorer in all competitions.
But while it was a strong campaign in front of goal for Ronaldo, it was a disastrous one for the team. United finished sixth in the Premier League and failed to lift a trophy for a fifth consecutive season.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has played in the Champions League for 19 campaigns in a row and United’s failure to qualify for the competition is understood to be a key reason for wanting to depart the club for a second time.
As United’s players look to impress new boss Erik ten Hag ahead of their Premier League opener against Brighton on August 7, live on Sky Sports, Ronaldo’s future is now an unwelcome distraction.
Erik ten Hag’s first Premier League game as Manchester United manager will be against Brighton at Old Trafford, live on Sky Sports, on the opening Super Sunday of the 2022/23 season.
After facing Graham Potter’s Seagulls on Sunday August 7, live on Sky Sports, United travel to Brentford in the second round of fixtures before hosting rivals Liverpool in a blockbuster early-season clash on the weekend of August 20.
United’s trip to the Etihad Stadium for the first Manchester derby of the season on October 1 kicks off a daunting month which sees Ten Hag’s side travel to Everton and Chelsea and host Tottenham, Newcastle and West Ham.
The final game before the season pauses for the winter World Cup will be against Fulham on the weekend of November 12/13. United then return to action on Boxing Day at Fulham.
2023 will be ushered in by a home match against promoted Bournemouth. Premier League champions Manchester City are next up at Old Trafford on January 14, the return trip to Anfield on March 4, while United conclude their season at home to Fulham on May 28.
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