End of an era
The seemingly perdurable Cristiano Ronaldo reportedly wants to leave Real Madrid after being investigated by the Spanish tax authorities on the suspicion of avoiding around £15 million in tax. So affronted by this investigation into his finances, the legendary forward has made the surprise decision to quit Spanish football.
In eight seasons at Real Madrid, Ronaldo has scored an astonishing 406 goals in 395 games in all competitions at a rate of over a goal a game. Three Champions League crowns, two La Liga titles, a pair of Copa del Rey wins, three Ballon d'Or awards, and three European Golden Shoe and La Liga Top Scorer awards are just some of the highlights of his time in Spain. The Euro 2016 winner is decorated heavily with individual and team titles that underline his status in the modern game.
Ronaldo may be the preening, individualistic, self-absorbed, and conceited superstar that contemporary football deserves in stark contrast to his eternal rival Lionel Messi, but the former Manchester United star's professionalism and dedication is truly phenomenal. The relentless desire to extract as much as possible from his talent requires a formidable level of discipline and understanding of the inevitable flow of time. Footballers come and go, even the legends. To make the most of one's career to the very fullest is to acknowledge this fact.
Last month, Real Madrid became the first team to retain the Champions League in the modern era since AC Milan won successive European Cups in 1989 and 1990. Real Madrid's tenth, La Décima, was achieved in 2014 before 2016 and 2017 triumphs made history. Ronaldo will probably win yet another Ballon d'Or this year, but where will he go? An over-hyped return to Manchester United? Paris Saint-Germain after the French capital club reportedly rejected the chance to sign the mouthy Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang?
Maybe Real Madrid need to fear losing Ronaldo to truly appreciate a fearsome modern machine.
Done deals and happenings
Mino Raiola is a bit of a ghoul, isn't he? Gianluigi Donnarumma is set to leave AC Milan after turning down a contract extension of £80,000 a week. The goalkeeping wonderkid is just 18. Well, he has to be sold with just a year remaining on his contract. He still needs to work on his distribution and can make a few errors, but he's simply a phenomenon. 72 appearances for AC Milan and 4 international caps at 18 is stunning for a goalkeeper. This will surely trigger an intriguing set of transfers over the summer.
Bayern Munich may have sealed the fate of Renato Sanches by signing Corentin Tolisso from Olympique Lyonnais. The £35.2 million deal for yet another young and talented French international underlines the sheer depth that Didier Deschamps can call upon. This current generation of French players should win a major tournament in the years ahead, but players like Tolisso need to play regularly to have a chance of breaking through when competition is fierce at international level. It's something for Kylian Mbappé to perhaps consider.
Everton have decided to spend a significant portion of the Romeu Lukaku money before he leaves on Jordan Pickford and Davy Klaassen. Pickford arrives from Sunderland in a £30 million deal (£25 million up front) to become the most expensive goalkeeper in the entire history of British football. Klaassen, Ajax's captain and a Dutch international, joins his countryman Ronald Koeman for £23.6 million.
2015/16 Premier League champions Leicester City have been busy. Harry Maguire impressed at relegated Hull City and earned a £17 million (£12 million initial fee) move to the Foxes to continue playing Premier League football. Eldin Jakupović followed the same path to Craig Shakespeare's waiting arms for £2 million to presumably support Kasper Schemichel. However, where does that leave Ron-Robert Zieler?
Remember Mathew Ryan? I spelled his name with an extra "t" two and a half years ago when he was linked with a move to Anfield, and the url remains proof of such transgressions. Well, Brighton and Hove Albion have broken the club's transfer record to sign the Australian international goalkeeper from Valencia. The fee should be around the £6 million mark and will probably be broken again by the time the season starts. A few days prior, David Stockdale—Chris Hughton's number one last season—was confirmed to move to Birmingham City on a free transfer.
AS Monaco have signed Wolfsburg goalkeeper Diego Benaglio on a three-year deal to compete with the average Danijel Subašić. Benaglio is familiar with many Bundesliga fans after spending 10 years at Wolfsburg and won the Bundesliga under Felix Magath in 2008/09. He's a solid campaigner and should take Subašić's place to provide more reliability in goal.
Eusebio di Francesco returns to AS Roma as head coach after Luciano Spalletti resigned. The 47-year-old won the Scudetto with the capital club under Fabio Capello in 2000/01 and wants to continue the entertaining football played under his predecessor.
"It was like coming home after many years," said Di Francesco, who will work with a world class sporting director in Monchi. "There's a desire to achieve something big and build a team that entertains."
As expected, Claude Puel has been sacked by Southampton despite reaching the League Cup final and finishing tenth in the Premier League. Delusions on the South Coast seem to be growing by the week. Thomas Tuchel has ruled himself out of the job, but Frank De Boer seems to be the anointed favourite now that Tuchel has revealed the job to rightly be beneath him. It's almost as if Southampton should appreciate the established hierarchy in football and gratefully accept when a world record fee for a defender is on offer.
Troubled Leeds United have appointed Thomas Christiansen as the club's new head coach to replace Garry Monk who left in May. The former Apoel Nicosia manager won the Cypriot First Division title and the Europa League last 16 in his only season in charge to merit a potentially lucrative move to England.
There may be discord at Chelsea after Antonio Conte gave not a single fuck in telling Diego Costa was "surplus to requirements" at the Premier League champions. The last edition enjoyed Conte doing things his way, but that may not have been fully appreciated in London. The main problem, however, concerns transfers. Conte wants certain players and wants them in early, but neither have happened as yet. It may be early in the transfer window, but Conte understands the importance of doing business as quickly as possible for top targets.