Debate: Cristiano Ronaldo - For Manchester United, Real Madrid, Or Even Inter?

The Ballon d'Or winner and FIFA World Player of the Year has football at his feet in every sense - but where should his future lie? Three Goal.com experts investigate...

With another feather now added to Cristiano Ronaldo’s already garish cap, is there anything left in England for him to conquer? Shouldn’t he just ditch Manchester United at the end of the season and fulfil his life-long dream of playing for Real Madrid, who courted him so relentlessly last summer that he might well have taken out a restraining order?

Well, to be quite honest... no, he shouldn’t. And the very question only comes into play if Sir Alex Ferguson decides to let his most valuable player leave, which he won’t.

Yes, the lure of the Santiago Bernabeu is great, and there are many valid reasons for making the switch. Taking on a new challenge and testing his extraordinary talents further; living the Latino lifestyle, where absurd tans and totalled Ferraris are run-of-the-mill; and then there’s the (more) astronomical wages on offer.

But think of what Portugal’s golden boy would be leaving behind. Real Madrid are arguably the greatest club on the planet, but it’s because of United that the argument exists. And at the moment, the champions of England, Europe and the world are stating the stronger case.

Ronaldo has not only been pivotal to that success, he’s been the catalyst. It is no coincidence that the Red Devils’ return to the top has come while their wing wonder has enjoyed the best form of his career to date. It’s incredible to think that he is only 23 and already being mentioned alongside the likes of George Best, Denis Law and Sir Bobby Charlton as one of the club’s best ever players. He’s almost guaranteed legend status if he stays put, whereas if he goes...

They say the grass is always greener on the other side. From his current perch, Ronaldo looks toward Iberia and sees La Liga glory, that famous white strip with his name on the back, and 100,000 Madridistas cheering his every touch.

But if he makes his dream move, he might find himself struggling with the constant uncertainty over who will be coaching him tomorrow, tired at the relentless and ridiculous paper-talk, and depressed at the howls that greet every failed dribble and scuffed shot during a lean patch.

Then, he will look back to the North West of England, and he might pine for the lush expanses of Old Trafford and the dependable, comparatively turmoil-free comfort of its dressing room. He might appreciate the somewhat less radical nature of the Stretford End regulars, and regret that he passed up the chance to pen a chapter in Devils folklore. And he may even mutter that it was a mistake to leave Manchester United.

Mike Maguire, Goal.com


SPAIN

Think back to Real Madrid's ill-fated moves for CR7 in summer. That the whole Ronaldo to Madrid saga was doomed from the beginning doesn't now matter. What's done is done, and what's to come is what's to come.

And, believe it or not, the possibility of Ronaldo's moving this summer is not completely out of the question.

Can I Get A Rewind?

Slowly but surely, the media in Spain are bringing out the rumours, and Real Madrid are not moving to dispel them. This will be a summer of reconstruction at the Bernabeu, and one believes that president Ramon Calderon and sidekick Pedja Mijatovic would love to top their tower with the golden boy of world football.

Of course, United will be hell-bent on holding onto their prize talent; as well they should, for he remains an absurdly valuable item both to the balance sheet and to the squad.

But so much of this comes down to player power, and one wonders whether or not a second consecutive summer of unrest couldn't see Ronaldo get the move that some claim he's wanted all along.

Out Of The Frying Pan, Into The Limelight

In moving to conquer a new part of the globe for the glory of Ronaldo's name, though, he'd find a whole new goldfish bowl in which he could swim to his heart's content.

He's already perhaps the top sporting target for the papparazzi in the UK, but in Madrid this would perhaps be even more of a danger. Even relatively unknown players - not least Ronaldo's fellow car crash ace, Royston Drenthe - find themselves subject to untold levels of scrutiny.

Still, if he's not used to such a lifestyle by now, he never will be. And one imagines that, deep down, the little spiky-haired narcissist within him thrives upon it.

Factor into that a city more amenable to his lifestyle - bearing in mind rainy Manchester is, as he freely admits, not his idea of Utopia - and the off-field concerns begin to look insignificant.

A move to Madrid becomes more and more alluring when each factor is considered: he has conquered England; the Premier League has bended its collective knee to his talents, as has the continent of Europe via the Champions League. Unlike, say, Steven Gerrard at Liverpool - who still awaits a league title - there is nothing left for Ronaldo to accomplish.

The counterpoint to this is that he can seek to build a 'dynasty' at United, but my opinion is that this is the wrong time for such a project. With Sir Alex Ferguson's reign coming to an end - probably in time for the 2012 Olympic Games, if not before - and the club's financial future open to more question than usual, it could be time for a wholesale renewal, as opposed to building on present success, with a potential rocky, transitional road ahead.

A move to Madrid will give him a new sense of impetus, a new territory to conquer - and perhaps, as weird as it sounds, a more stable environment. Yes, Madrid have financial worries of their own, and the managerial hotseat is like something out of a game of musical chairs, but such a sense of flux is really par for the course there. United's coaching change, when it comes, will be something completely different.

And then there's the team itself. With Ronaldo on the right and Arjen Robben on the left - or indeed the other way around - one of Europe's best wing forces would be there for the watching. With the right forward support, this could be a very special side indeed - one, in fact, that could better United.

Blanco legend Raul is on the way out, and thus the way is paved for Ronaldo to lead the pack. His sense of ego would be sated; his speed and style would see him take the Liga by storm. Chalk up another success for Ronaldo - if he wants to accept the challenge... and I think he does. And should.

Ewan Macdonald, Goal.com

ITALY

Many would have laughed off the very possibility of Ronaldo moving to Inter - but before ruling out the possibility entirely, let us analyse a few of the reasons that it is not particularly out of the question.

Firstly, Ronaldo has made it abundantly clear that he does not want to finish his career in Manchester, even if he is "at home" as he has recently claimed to be. On top of that, Sir Alex Ferguson will do everything in his power to avoid selling to Real Madrid. It has become a battle of notorious egos, and with Nike's pulling power in the transfer market having lured 'the real Ronaldo' from Barcelona to Inter just over a decade ago - indeed after he had just been crowned as the world's best - Adidas-sponsored Madrid may not quite be the perfect club for Ronaldo after all.

Inter may be top of Serie A, but the fans remain underwhelmed by the reign of Jose Mourinho so far. The 'big' centenary signing, Ricardo Quaresma, has been a resounding flop thus far. In Europe, they have been unremarkable to date and even risk letting Juventus back into the title race. Milan are signing galacticos at every available opportunity and Nerazzurri president Massimo Moratti will be feeling like he has to keep pace.

Though not exactly custom-made for the Italian game, a player of Ronaldo's attributes could certainly cause a stir in Europe's fashion capital, purely because the defenders would struggle to live with his pace and power. Calcio fans have long been critical of the United No. 7, but would no doubt welcome a world class player to their ranks just as they have done with the likes of Ronaldinho and David Beckham.

Think of Robinho's situation this summer, with Manchester United playing the role of Real Madrid, Real Madrid playing the role of Chelsea, which would make Inter the Manchester City of this little love triangle, swooping in to stun the world of football with a transfer that would be sure to rock the footballing world.

Sulmaan Ahmad, Goal.com

What do you think? Should Cristiano Ronaldo stay with Manchester United, go to Real Madrid or even to Inter? Should he stay where all has gone so well in Manchester? Or would he be happier living his dream with a move to Madrid? What about the chance of a surprise move to Inter - could that give him the best of both worlds? Goal.com wants to know what YOU think...