After a record-breaking career with Real Madrid, the question is where does Cristiano Ronaldo go from here? Anywhere in Europe, where the club will not scale the same heights as those of Los Merengues, will be a disappointment, a climbdown. Is the Portuguese ready or deserving of that?
There’s a sentimental escape, returning to Sporting Club de Portugal, his footballing alma mater. They took the boy from Madeira to Lisbon and nurtured the player. Manchester United was his training ground for the ‘big time’ and then Real Madrid called.
He answered but nearly a decade later, we await the answer for the next location of the Cristiano Ronaldo story. The hope is that it isn’t a Godfather III scenario, where the main storyline is ruined by bad choices and should never have been made.
Ronaldo needs to go out on a high, where he ‘gives’ something back to football. As a professional, he has reaped the rewards of his hard work and abilities; the fairy tale ending demands that he leaves an indelible mark on the sport. Records are there to be broken but some footprints are left undiminished by the sands of time.
The MLS has long been suggested as a ‘retirement home’ for one of football’s greatest players. He is Di Stefano to Messi’s Puskas; admired and revered but not quite as much as their peer.
Which is where joining the Miami franchise fronted by David Beckham holds its’ appeal. With the diverse demographics of the region, football should be a resounding success in the city.
Miami FC, the NASL franchise co-owned by Paolo Maldini and coached by Paul Dalglish, son of former Liverpool and Celtic hero Kenny, laid the groundwork with the much talked about Beckham franchise coming to the city soon.
They need a cheerleader and Cristiano Ronaldo is that man. Marketable beyond the stands and the pitch, the Portuguese already has a global presence. It’s the equivalent of Pele moving to NASL in the 1970s except this U.S.A. soccer league is well-established.
His arrival is beyond anything Major League Soccer will ever witness. Lionel Messi, a mercurial and arguably more naturally gifted player, wouldn’t have the same impact. With Ronaldo’s chiselled good looks, the billboards of the southern Florida city await his arrival.
Kaka proved the concept in Orlando when he turned out for the city’s MLS franchise. An unexpected signing – certainly not trailed in the way Ronaldo is being – the Brazilian oozed class on and off the pitch. Imagine giving a global marketing presence as a gift to the U.S. game?
But the key aspect of Ronaldo’s arrival will be desire. His presence will inspire the youth of the region, state, if not the nation, to continue playing the game. A strong sport among children, soccer needs a hero to push the children to play as adults, to aspire to a career as a professional or to just play for fun.
When the U.S.A gets a strong amateur game, then soccer can truly claim it has arrived.