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It’s the biggest story in the transfer market this summer: Cristiano Ronaldo is seemingly set on leaving Real Madrid.

Manchester United have been touted as a potential destination for the 32-year-old, who left Old Trafford for the Bernabeu in an £80 million deal back in 2009. 

A return to Old Trafford would be astonishing, but could his arrival trigger a departure? Real Madrid are long-term admirers of David De Gea, who has been mentioned as a possible makeweight in any deal.

ESPN FC’s Manchester United bloggers discuss whether it would be worth losing De Gea to get Ronaldo back.

Ronaldo returns to Manchester United. The catch? De Gea goes to Madrid. Do you take the deal?

Musa Okwonga: That depends if De Gea wants to leave — if so, then take the deal. Playing in the right system, Ronaldo will guarantee you 30 goals a season for the next three seasons. De Gea has been superb for United, but there is no use in keeping a player against his will. Were he to leave, too, few could begrudge him his move to a team so dominant in Europe. His loss would be significant, but it is still early enough in the transfer window for United to move for another elite target.

Scott Patterson: I agree. If De Gea’s plan is to leave this summer or next, then United might as well get something out of it. However, if Real Madrid sign Gianluigi Donnarumma, then keeping De Gea makes more sense. United have another 5-10 years of him being one of the best goalkeepers, and it would be silly to give up on that for a player who only has a few top seasons left. Ronaldo is already beginning to slow down, whereas De Gea arguably may not have yet reached his peak.

Which team gets the better deal, United or Real?

MO: Real. They get to reinvest the money in their future and to plough more money into an increasingly youthful and brilliant squad. Most notably, it will give them spending money to go after Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe, who is as exciting an attacking talent as seen in many years. Of course, United would get several benefits from such a deal, both football and commercial — but it might inhibit the development of younger forwards Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. Having said that, the elite squads across Europe are similarly blessed with brilliant forwards who don’t always make it off the bench.

SP: If United decide Ronaldo is worth the money being asked, then it’s fairly irrelevant how much he costs. Rival fans like to make a fuss about how much Paul Pogba cost, but do you think United supporters cared less when watching him play every week before scoring one of the club’s most important goals over the past four years? If Ronaldo comes to United and helps them win the league or, best-case scenario, the Champions League, will Real Madrid be glad of the money or wish they had the player who has helped them win Europe’s elite competition over and over again?

Cristiano Ronaldo has reportedly told Real Madrid he wants out, with David De Gea a rumoured makeweight.

Can you justify the huge sums involved in landing a 32-year-old?

MO: Morally, no. Financially, yes — as is the case with just about every major football transfer, to be honest. He is no ordinary 32-year-old — he is in exceptional physical condition and has about three seasons left at an elite level. He will probably return the investment made in him within a couple of seasons due to endorsements and marketing. And he is consistently ruthless in the late stages of major tournaments. For a club with United’s ambitions, who struggled so often in front of goal last season, the decision to pursue him seems to be a no-brainer.

SP: United are the most valuable club in the world. While he obviously won’t have the resale value that Real Madrid will be able to enjoy, if Ronaldo can continue to play at the level he has done and bring the success to United that he’s brought to the Bernabeu, then he’ll be worth every penny. Fans want to see their team continue to win trophies, and the chances of that happening with Ronaldo on the team increases. The money doesn’t matter.

If Ronaldo rejoins United, how would you rate their chances in the Premier League next season?

MO: Reasonable. There are several other problems they have to address for them to be leading contenders. He needs pace and creativity around him so that he can truly thrive. United are still desperately thin in midfield, and it would be incongruous if Ronaldo is a regular starter alongside Marouane Fellaini. If he is to join, then he will be one of several missing pieces, and his arrival, though still seemingly unlikely at this stage, cannot be used to paper over the cracks. At present, his addition would make United a prospect for a top-three finish, but not beyond that.

SP: Whether United win the league or not probably depends more on how their rivals, especially Manchester City, strengthen in the summer. Ronaldo will make United immeasurably better than they have been every year since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he would make the team the best in the league.

Predict the outcome of this saga

MO: Ronaldo stays at Real with a vastly improved contract and the reassurance they truly value him, a validation which most superstars seem to need every couple of seasons.

SP: I think this is a difficult one. Ronaldo, bizarrely, isn’t a very popular figure with the Madrid fans, so it might be tricky for him to continue there. But United are a long way away from where they were when he left, and on the back of a hugely successful season in Madrid, he may well seek a move elsewhere if he does decide to leave the Bernabeu.



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