DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo has left Manchester United with immediate effect. Where will he turn next?
The Portugal star marketed himself ahead of the World Cup with an explosive interview that led to his contract being terminated on Tuesday.
As a free agent, the 37-year-old forward now has the chance to impress potential rivals and prove he can still perform at the highest level for his country in Qatar.
His future may depend on it after failing to secure a move to the Champions League club in the summer.
Midway through the season, his options still look limited if he is to play in the knockout stages of Europe’s top club football competition when he returns from the World Cup.
The Champions League is now down to the last 16 teams, with only a handful of those who can come close to offering Ronaldo the reported £500,000 ($594,000) a week he earns in Gets in United. And there is little evidence that they would be interested in signing him.
Ronaldo’s interview with Piers Morgan, in which he criticized United manager Erik ten Hag and the club’s owners, made it clear that he still believes he is one of the best footballers in the world. But where in the world will his career take him next?
Champions League Club
There are only 16 available to choose from when the squad resumes in February if Ronaldo is keen to play in the competition. Then there is the question of who will spend it.
The dream scenario would be to have one last flight with a truly elite club. But perhaps his best chance will be as a short-term fix until the end of the season.
Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has been ruled out of the World Cup due to injury, as has Bayern Munich’s Sadio Mane.
Perhaps Ronaldo would be an attractive emergency option if one of these clubs fears falling short in the second half of the campaign.
Premier League club
Chelsea considered a move in the summer, but it never materialised.
Ronaldo would not appear to fit into the long-term plans of new manager Graham Potter, who is already dealing with an aging striker in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Arsenal fan Pierre Morgan is pushing for a move to his club, but the Premier League leaders have invested in building a young squad under manager Mikel Arteta and Ronaldo will be out.
Could Saudi-backed Newcastle be tempted to make the first real statement to sign under their new ownership?
To end his career where it began at Sporting Lisbon would provide a romantic backdrop for Ronaldo, while the Portuguese club could offer him a return to next season’s Champions League.
He will have to take a significant pay cut if he chooses this option.
Ronaldo’s only serious interest this summer came from Saudi Arabia. While a move would likely present a more lucrative option for him, it would be an obvious step forward in terms of his remaining sporting ambitions.
That would deny him the chance to extend his record as the all-time leading goalscorer in the Champions League with 140 goals, and give his arch-rival Lionel Messi, who has 129 goals, the chance to beat him.
Maybe it’s time to take your brand to the United States and become one of the biggest stars to play in MLS.
He cannot be expected to match his wages and he must accept that his days of playing in the Champions League are over.
But for a man with more than half a billion followers on Instagram it will be a chance to go beyond the field into the world’s biggest market – and a new adventure.