Tag Archives: Cristiano Ronaldo

Atletico Madrid vs Manchester United – Champions League Last 16 predictions

The Champions League last 16 fixtures are finally upon us after a two month break since the group stages.

In one of the biggest ties of the round, current reigning La Liga champions Atletico Madrid take on Premier League giants Manchester United for a place in the quarter-finals.

Lets take a look at the tie in more detail and make our predictions to see who will progress into the last eight of Europe’s most prestigious cup competition.



Route to Last 16

Atletico Madrid made it through to the knockout stages by the skin of their teeth in a poor group stage by their own standards.

Diego Simeone’s side suffered defeat home and away to Liverpool and they were beaten at home by AC Milan, but a final day win over FC Porto saw them claim the runners-up spot in the group.

They scored seven goals in the six games, conceding eight but crazily there were seven red cards in their group stage games too to show the frustration they carried.

Manchester United overcame a tough start to their group win finish top with a game to spare, despite changing managers during the group stage.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored in all five of his appearances to help United claim wins over Villarreal home and away and Atalanta at Old Trafford but they failed to beat lowly Club Brugge at all.

United scored a total of 11 goals int heir six group games, conceding eight and only managing to keep one clean sheet.

Team news

Atletico Madrid are facing several injury issues with all of Daniel Wass, Matheus Cunha and Yannick Carrasco ruled out of the game, while Thomas Lemar, Koke and Mario Hermoso doubtful.

Simeone was seen in training with a lineup consisting of a back-five, with January signing Reinildo as a centre-back, while Joao Felix and Luis Suarez could start together. Angel Correa is pushing for a start though following his good form.

Ralf Rangnick’s options are much better, with Edinson Cavani expected to be fit following a groin injury that has seen him miss the last few games.

Marcus Rashford has recently found himself on the bench after some poor form, so Anthony Elanga could get a start while Jadon Sancho will look to continue his excellent form. Ronaldo will continue up front.

Breakdown and Prediction

Atletico still have a reputation of being a defensive side with little intention to play attacking football, but that isn’t the case anymore.

The team have kept just three clean sheets since the turn of the year and have lost eight of their last 15 games in all competitions.

Manchester United on the other hand have been struggling with their performances in recent weeks, but the results haven’t taken a massive hit so far under Rangnick.

Across 90 minutes, they’ve lost just once since he became manager in 14 games but they’re yet to win three games in a row in all competitions this season. They won their last two, with a 3-0 win over Brighton and 4-2 win over Leeds.

This game is likely to be tight with both sides relatively low on confidence in their performance, despite the difference in their results.

Home advantage is likely to play a big part in both games, but I do feel that Man United will be able to progress because they have more goals in their team.

Atletico Madrid 0-0 Manchester United
Manchester United 2-1 Atletico Madrid
(Manchester United qualify 2-1 on aggregate)

What Manchester United fans learnt from Ralf Rangnick’s first win as manager

Manchester United earned back-to-back victories in the Premier League for the first time since September as Fred’s goal gave Ralf Rangnick a winning start as manager.

The German boss took over as interim manager until the end of the season following the win over Arsenal in midweek and named an unchanged team for the visit of Palace, who were set up to counter and attack United’s weaknesses.

The Reds turned in an excellent first half performance but they didn’t find the breakthrough until late on, when Fred whipped one into the top corner with his right foot from the edge of the box.



United learnt from the performance that there are some things to come and there are plenty of positives to take from it, but here are the ones I picked out.

Fred will love Rangnick

If it wasn’t obvious from the fact he got the winner, the Brazilian was excellent throughout. Many people expected an upturn in his fortunes with the arrival of a coach and a more structured system and it showed immediately.

The 28-year-old was quick in the press, more forward thinking with his passing and his tackling was as good as usual. This system is designed to get the best out of players like him and he is thriving in the heart of midfield.

Victor Lindelof enjoyed the responsibility

The Swede continued in the absence of Raphael Varane but he turned in one of the most assured performances of his Old Trafford career.

Lindelof was excellent on the ball, brave to pinch the ball early on the halfway line and constantly organising his midfielders ahead of him too. He did well to completely nullify the threat of Christian Benteke and Odsonne Edouard up front while also helping Diogo Dalot get forward and track Wilfried Zaha. A top performance.

Attacking full-backs

Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Aaron Wan-Bissaka was a staple of the defence but it seems as though his position may not be so secure anymore.

Rangnick opted to stick with Dalot and the Portuguese defender turned in an excellent display, with great confidence on the ball and a real threat up and down the wing. With the full-backs keeping a high starting position, the attacking abilities are important and Dalot could be a big winner in this change.

Manchester United Head Coach / Manager Ralf Rangnick congratulates Diogo Dalot of Manchester United at the end of the Premier League match between...

Free flowing attack

United pressed high and were impressive off the ball in the game, but the performances of both Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho were also positives in an attacking sense.

Both men pressed well and they linked well together in and around the box as United touched the ball more times in the opponents penalty area than in any game since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.

While neither were directly involved in the goal, it showed that they can be key figures in the side and that can only be a positive for Manchester United.

Lionel Messi wins record seventh Ballon d’Or

Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d’Or for the seventh time in his career, extending his record as the player to win it the most times.

The Argentine captain capped off a wonderful year for himself by pipping Robert Lewandowski and Jorginho to the award, making him the first Ligue 1 player to win the honour since Jean-Pierre Papin in 1991.

Messi had previously won each of his six awards with FC Barcelona, the club he played his entire career for before a summer move to Paris Saint-Germain.



The award was met with a mixed response from fans, with many believing Bayern Munich and Poland striker Lewandowski deserved the honour.

But in the end, Messi’s victory in the Copa America and Copa Del Rey as well as finishing as the top goalscorer in both tournaments and La Liga was enough to secure him the record breaking achievement.

Lewandowski finished second while Chelsea’s Jorginho rounded off the podium in third, having helped his club win the Champions League and led Italy to winning Euro 2020 in the summer.

Karim Benzema finished fourth, while N’Golo Kante finished fifth. The Premier League continued to dominate the top ten as Cristiano Ronaldo finished sixth, Mohamed Salah finished seventh and Kevin De Bruyne finished eighth, while PSG stars Kylian Mbappe and Gianluigi Donnarumma completed the top ten.

FIFA ensured that Lewandowski didn’t go home empty handed however, as the inaugral “Striker of the Year” award was given to the man who scored 64 goals in 54 games last season en route to yet another Bundesliga title.

Chelsea were crowned the inaugral “Club of the Year” winners, while Pedri was confirmed as the Kopa Trophy winner -given to the best Under-21 player in the world.

Messi’s victory moves him two clear of Ronaldo in the record hunt, as the Portuguese legend finished outside of the top three for the first time since 2010.

Cristiano Ronaldo is Manchester United’s poison and medicine

Manchester United secured a huge point away to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, but bigger than the result was Michael Carrick’s decision to drop Cristiano Ronaldo.

United started the game in a 4-3-3 shape with Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho flanking Bruno Fernandes as the striker, with all of Fred, Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic playing in midfield.

The Reds took the lead in the second half as Sancho pounced on a Jorginho error to slot past Edouard Mendy, before the Italian converted a penalty to ensure a nervy finish.



Ronaldo wasn’t on the pitch when United went ahead but had been called upon by Carrick before the penalty decision, while he was largely anonymous on the field for the rest of the game.

Carrick implemented a high press to try and force Chelsea into errors higher up the pitch, but the home side managed to cope fairly well for the most part.

While some speculated that the incoming Ralf Rangnick may have had something to do with the team selection and decision to drop Ronaldo, Carrick completely ruled that out and it was pretty clear from the style that the German had no involvement.

But what it did offer up were some questions about how Ronaldo will fit in going forward.

Manchester United's Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo replaces Manchester United's English striker Jadon Sancho in the second half during the...

The Portuguese forward is the club’s top goalscorer this season with ten goals, but the Premier League has proved tough for him with just four goals in nine appearances so far. His lack of defensive nous means United are often a man down when it comes to the transitions and keeping clean sheets.

Despite that though, he has proven to be United’s saviour on several occasions already. He scored twice on his debut in a 4-1 win over Newcastle, scoring the opening and go-ahead goals in the game.

He scored the equaliser against West Ham, the opener against Young Boys, the winner against Villarreal at home, the winner in the home game against Atalanta, the opener against Tottenham, both goals in a 2-2 draw with Atalanta away and the opener in the return game against Villarreal too.

All of his goals to date have been meaningful and contributed towards United winning points. So how is it that someone so important can also potentially be a hinderance to the current United squad going forward?

Ultimately, that is the case. His defensive frailties don’t help the side whatsoever on the pitch, but going forward you can’t just ignore how good he is when it comes to being clinical and winning you games.

Forward of Manchester United Cristiano Ronaldo celebrate after scoring the 0-1 goal with his teammate during Champions League match between...

With Ronaldo now 36-years-old, you get what you’re given with him at this point. United knew what he offered when they signed him and they did it anyway. To his credit, he has performed too.

For United and Rangnick now, the task remains the same. They need a cohesive defensive unit on the pitch, which also contains Cristiano Ronaldo in attack to have the perfect balance to win games, especially at the highest level.

The Portuguese legend is currently both a poison and a medicine to the Manchester United squad, but United must now find a way to perfectly balance the doses of each.

Fernando Santos on borrowed time with Portugal

At the start of the international break this month, Portugal were in pole position to have their qualification status for Qatar 2022 all wrapped up.

They travelled to face the Republic of Ireland in a bit of a dead rubber game, because regardless of the result it was the final game against Serbia on Sunday night that mattered.

A 0-0 draw with Ireland changed nothing. Portugal needed a draw in the home game against Serbia to secure top spot on goal difference, while a victory would leave no question as to whether they deserved it or not.



The pre-game press conference once again led to Fernando Santos making a promise to Portugal fans.

“Tomorrow, we will qualify for the World Cup.”

They didn’t. Despite a goal from Renato Sanches in the second minute that gave them the lead, Portugal were poor throughout. Serbia equalised in the first half thanks to Dusan Tadic, whose strike took a slight deflection off Danilo and meant Rui Patricio could only deflect the ball into his own net.

Portugal barely created any chances in the game, with Cristiano Ronaldo failing to register a single shot on target in the game for the first time in the entire qualifying campaign.

But in the 93rd minute, Aleksandar Mitrovic slammed a header in at the near post to book Serbia’s ticket to Qatar and condemn Portugal to a play-off that makes their participation at the World Cup far from certain.

Santos has been in charge of Portugal since September 2014, when he took over from Carlos Quieroz after a poor start to their World Cup qualifying campaign.

The former Greece manager saved that campaign and led them in that World Cup, before then winning Euro 2016. He then led the team into the 2018 World Cup, where as European champions they really disappointed by crashing out in the round of 16 to Uruguay.

That should’ve been the trigger for Santos to depart, but instead Portugal opted to keep him and gave him the extra credit of winning Euro 2016. He responded by winning the first ever version of the UEFA Nations League the following year, defeating Holland in the final.

Since then however, it’s not been great going. Portugal struggled at Euro 2020 to a late win over Hungary in the opening group game before a defeat to Germany and a draw with France put them through as a best third-placed team. They were then beaten by Belgium, once again failing to really create much going forward.

Head coach Fernando Santos of Portugal, is seen during the UEFA EURO 2020, Round of 16 football match between Belgium and Portugal at La Cartuja...

Now with this latest failure, it seems like his time as being the right man for the job is probably over.

With the squad at his disposal, he is a totally wrong fit for the team. Santos is constantly putting defence first when trying to sort a squad out, despite the abundance of attacking talent he has available to him.

The first thought of the manager is always not to lose rather than to win, which fitted well with expectations when he first took over but not so much anymore.

This is a squad that is more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the best teams in the world with a bit of tactical invention and good structure.

With the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Joao Felix, Bernardo Silva, Diogo Jota and Ronaldo among the ranks then this is a team very capable of scoring goals.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal , Joao Felix and Bruno Fernandes warm up prior the friendly football match between Portugal and Andorra, at the Luz...

With a four month period now between the failure and the play-offs in March, there is a chance to make a change now and bring in a more attack-minded coach like Leonardo Jardim to get the best out of this upcoming generation of attacking talent.

Santos is on borrowed time with Portugal and they have a chance to make it right before they miss out on a World Cup competition for the first time since 2002.

Fantasy Matches: Real Madrid 15-18 vs Barcelona 08-11

When you think about the best teams of the modern era, there are two that stick out like a sore thumb.

During a period where Spanish football was the home of the best players and managers in the world, it was obviously Barcelona and Real Madrid that had periods of dominance across Europe and domestically.

But what would have happened if you put those two teams, at their best, head-to-head with each other? We’re here to break it down and try and figure it out.



Barcelona between 2008 and 2011 were and are considered one of the greatest club sides in the history of football.

Under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, they revolutionised the way attacking football was played up until this day. They dominated possession, scored countless goals, passed opponents to death and were the home to arguably the greatest player of all-time in Lionel Messi.

Their 4-3-3 system with attacking full-backs and technically secure players all over the pitch set the benchmark as they won two Champions League trophies, three La Liga titles, three Spanish Super Cups, a Copa Del Rey, two UEFA Super Cups and two Club World Cups across three-and-a-half seasons.

Real Madrid couldn’t compete with them during that period, but they made their own mark half a decade later when they not only became the first team to retain their Champions League trophy but they also made it three-in-a-row.

Add to that a La Liga title, a Spanish Super Cup, two UEFA Super Cups and two World Club Cups under Zinedine Zidane (plus an extra World Club Cup under Santi Solari after Zidane’s resignation), this is a team synonymous with success and winning.

The brilliant goalscoring of Cristiano Ronaldo, the majestic midfield play of Luka Modric and Tony Kroos, the playmaking from full-back by Marcelo and the leadership of Sergio Ramos at the back, this was a complete squad.

The difference between these two powerhouse teams is that Real Madrid were able to adapt their style of play depending on the opponent.

Against weaker opposition they had the ability to dominate the ball and carve open defences to score goals, while pushing high up the pitch to sustain pressure.

When they came up against quality outfits though, Zidane would ensure they sat a bit deeper defensively, were compact in midfield and explosive on the counter attack with the pace of Ronaldo, Benzema and even Gareth Bale leading the way.

Barcelona on the other hand were the same no matter what. Much like today’s Guardiola, it was all about controlling the ball and dominating possession. Short passes, lots of sharp movements and rotation across positions and technical security meant they were unshakeable on the ball.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane pose for a photo accepts The Best FIFA Men's Player award during The Best FIFA Football Awards at The London...

But the Catalan legend also instilled a hunger in the team to win the ball back as soon as possible when they did lose it, famously starting a seven-second press that if the opponent was able to surpass would usually result on them being in on goal.

It’s fair to say that Zidane’s Madrid side would ultimately allow Barcelona to have the ball in midfield and be compact, while using their own technical abilities and brilliant quality to try and pick them off on the counter as they did to so many top sides during their Champions League wins during that period.

The difference however, is that this Madrid side never came up against this Lionel Messi.

The little Argentine was a totally different animal under Guardiola, which is terrifying considering all he has achieved since they parted ways in 2012.

Lionel Messi of Argentina and Barcelona FC receives the FIFA player of the year award during the FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2010 t the congress hall on...

I have no doubts that Ronaldo would likely have a say on the game himself, because during this period of time he was at his goalscoring best and most clutch. But Messi could effect the game without just putting the ball into the net.

David Villa and Pedro were also huge goalscoring threats from the wing, while Dani Alves in his peak was arguably the best right-back of all-time. It’s hard to imagine this Real Madrid side keeping this peak Barcelona side goalless for 90 minutes and while I wouldn’t bet against them scoring themselves, ultimately the greatest player of all-time would separate the two best club sides we’ve seen in this era of football.

Prediction: Real Madrid (15-18) 1-2 Barcelona (08-11) / Messi masterclass.

Cristiano Ronaldo – A blessing and a curse for Manchester United

It’s not a coincidence that so many game-winning moments fall to Cristiano Ronaldo and it happened again for Manchester United last night against Villarreal.

United struggled for the majority of the game, with the Spanish side cutting them open over and over again before eventually taking the lead through Paco Alcacer after Diogo Dalot struggled to deal with Arnaut Danjuma yet again.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made positive substitutions this time around and the game changed in the Reds’ favour, as Bruno Fernandes clipped a free-kick to the edge of the box for Alex Telles to volley home in typical Paul Scholes fashion to equalise.

Then came the onslaught as United pressed for a winner and it came in the 95th minute, their latest ever winning goal in Champions League history, as Cristiano Ronaldo pounced on a Jesse Lingard lay-off to smash into the roof of the net.

It saves United’s Champions League campaign for another week and while it showed exactly why they signed Ronaldo in the summer, the overall performance showed why Juventus weren’t exactly moving heaven and Earth to keep hold of him too.

What Ronaldo brings to a team now at 36-years-old is clear for all to see. He is the ultimate predator in the box, the greatest fox-in-the-box there has probably ever been. Like Solskjaer said in his pre-match press conference and Carlo Ancelotti has said before him, starting with Ronaldo in your team is essentially starting with a goal on the scoreboard already.

But the previous 94 minutes of action showed the flaws that Ronaldo has in his game now as he has developed into the cyborg he is.

His overall game isn’t the most polished, especially as a number nine. His hold up play isn’t the best, with his first touch when his back is to goal often letting him down and his willingness to go down under any sort of physical pressure from a defender meaning attacks break down before they even start.

It also means that United’s greatest weapon in recent years, their wingers and fast-paced attacks, can’t get going into games as much as they once did because it doesn’t suit the way to get the most out of the legendary number 7.

He doesn’t really occupy central defenders in the way someone like Edinson Cavani does and quite regularly he gets frustrated at a lack of service and drops deep to collect the ball, leaving nobody in the vicinity of the goal.

While his five goals in five games so far are telling me the absolute opposite, it’s likely that in the long-term this could start to affect the team.

The team begins to search for him a bit too much in instances, one moment in particular last night showed me this. Fernandes received the ball inside the penalty area after a lovely pass from Paul Pogba and instead of laying the ball off to Mason Greenwood for him to shoot, he instead opted to cross to the back post for Ronaldo who wasn’t even there yet and was surrounded by defenders.

United need to find a way of using their former system in which wide players were vital in creating and scoring goals while the centre-forward was in the box to pick up scraps and finish moves off. On paper, that seems perfect Ronaldo but his presence and status means he’s often doing more than that.

Clearly it works for him individually as his numbers continue to impress all despite his age. But is it sustainable? Long-term, it may come as a detriment to the team when opposition eventually start to pile onto Ronaldo and the team are conditioned to look for him to bail them out.

There’s no doubting that Manchester United will win more games with Ronaldo than without him, as last night showed. But there are already suggestions that a team that already relied heavily on individual brilliance to win them games has become even more reliant on a single brilliant individual to do the job.

Premier League transfer window – summary & thoughts

It’s been a while since I’ve done anything football related on here, and that’s because I’ve been pretty busy and also writing for the Manchester Evening News in my new full-time role (hence the much reduced content rate these days).

But even without my constant commentary, the football world hasn’t stopped moving and the last month or so of the transfer window has been absolutely unrivalled in sporting history.

Lionel Messi moved to Paris Saint-Germain and the French giants refused to sell Kylian Mbappe to Real Madrid despite his contract entering the final 12 months of validity. But the Premier League was even crazier.

The easiest way to do it is to go club by club through the sides most expected to win the title this season and summarise their window and expectations for the upcoming campaign.

We’ll start with the current reigning champions Man City, who smashed the British record transfer fee to sign Jack Grealish from Aston Villa in a deal worth £100m. After losing Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia on free transfers to Barcelona, they were expected to bring in a top striker too and chased Harry Kane throughout the summer but they were then left hanging when Spurs refused to negotiate.

Jack Grealish signs for Man City in Premier League record £100MILLION  transfer from Aston Villa

Despite the failure to sign a striker, City have started the season scoring ten goals in three games and defensively still look very solid as they did last year. They have a clear hole in the squad in terms of a traditional centre-forward, but Pep Guardiola sides always have several goal sources and that won’t change this year.

The signing of Grealish for a nine-figure sum added to the fact they were literally three wins away from winning every trophy available to them last seasons mean the expectation of the team is still to win the league.

Their issue this season however will be that they have a lot of competition for the title.

Arguably their strongest competition will be the current reigning European champions, Chelsea. The Blues look solid under Thomas Tuchel once again this season but have addressed some key areas, including the signing of fearsome striker Romelu Lukaku from Inter Milan in a deal worth £97.5m.

After balancing the books to get Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea press on with fire  sale as they chase next big deal | Evening Standard

The Belgian has returned to Stamford Bridge hungrier than ever for success, fresh off carrying Inter Milan to the Serie A title last year. He’s been joined on deadline day by Saul Niguez on a season-long loan deal from Atletico Madrid, further boosting the depth of an already stacked squad.

Chelsea are solid defensively, excellent in transition and in possession and now have a certified source of goals leading their attack too. With the depth they have, the excellent coach and pure quality in the squad they should consider anything but winning the league a failure.

The other main competition that they will have this season is from the red half of Manchester and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Man United side.

Not only did they finally complete the signing of long-term targets Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane, but they also did the impossible and were able to re-sign the legendary Cristiano Ronaldo from Juventus.

United were able to bolster their defensive line hugely with the addition of one of the best defenders in the world and then boosted an already strong attacking lineup with one of the best young wide players as well as one of the best ever. They didn’t however manage to sign a defensive midfielder and that could be a hinderance in their title push.

Despite that though, by adding so much quality to a team that finished second last season the only expectation of the squad can be to win it this year.

I realise that means I’ve said three different team have to win the league this year, but that’s because no matter what happens come May 2022 at least two of those teams will be considered failures for not lifting the Premier League trophy.

It could well be all three deemed as failures though, because Liverpool are well and truly in the race yet again. Last year they were completely blitzed by injuries to their defensive line and when Klopp opted to play midfielders in defence to cover them, they completely collapsed to the worst title defence in a long time.

But with Virgil Van Dijk back at his imperious best plus the return to fitness of Joe Gomez and Joel Matip followed by the addition of Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig, they’re defence is so much stronger. The midfield is solid, boosted by the promotion of young talent Harvey Elliott while Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota make up a formidable front line they are back to being contenders.

With Jurgen Klopp in the managerial hot seat too, Liverpool have got one of the best coaches in world football and a team that just two seasons ago was without a doubt the best in the world. They’re underdogs because of the business their rivals have done, but they are without a doubt in the running for the title too.

It’s due to be an absolutely crazy Premier League season and one you won’t want to miss under any circumstances. Keep an eye out for our top six predictions coming next week too.

What will Juventus do with Andrea Pirlo and Cristiano Ronaldo this summer?

It’s been a long, tough season for Juventus and manager Andrea Pirlo this season but it’s finally all over for them.

It’s been pretty poor from them throughout the season, but a 4-1 win on the final day of the season meant that they just about secured qualification for Europe’s elite club competition when Napoli failed to beat Verona.

But that win came despite Pirlo dropping Cristiano Ronaldo from the starting lineup, despite him being completely fit for the game. That in itself offered up a lot of questions in the media about the player’s future, but also the manager’s after a very underwhelming season.

Despite just about qualifying for the Champions League, it’s impossible to think that Pirlo hasn’t underachieved. After winning the league for the previous nine seasons, finishing fourth and heading into the final day with their fate not even in their own hands is simply not good enough.

He was able to win silverware though, winning the Coppa Italia thanks to a 2-0 win over Atalanta in the final, but overall you’d be hard pressed to find a Juventus fan content with how the season has gone. Especially if you consider the fact that Maurizio Sarri was sacked despite winning the league due to his style.

Pirlo’s side play uninspiring, dull football and really failed to get the best out of a large section of the squad. He should be praised for the form of Federico Chiesa, Juan Cuadrado, Matthijs De Ligt and even Ronaldo himself, who was Serie A’s top scorer this season, but the decision to often play a rigid 4-4-2 system is certainly questionable.

Add to that the fact the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Paulo Dybala and Alex Sandro have really struggled under him, Juventus could look to move him on a year early in his contract and try to bring in someone better to oversee the rebuild they need.

The biggest question of the rebuild will undoubtedly circle around the future of the legendary Portuguese attacker. At 36 years old, it’s fair to say Ronaldo isn’t quite the player he once was. Despite that though, he has been Juventus’ top scorer every year since joining the club and won the Serie A golden boot this season with 29 league goals in 33 appearances and 36 goals in 44 games in all competitions.

Despite his phenomenal numbers, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that having Ronaldo in your team takes away from the numbers that your other attacking players can put up. For example, Karim Benzema has scored 30, 27 and 30 goals in the three seasons since Ronaldo left Real Madrid. In the nine seasons they spent together, he only bettered 27 once and only bettered 30 once.

Dybala managed to score 26 times in the season before Ronaldo joined Turin, but since his arrival he’s registered just 32 in the three seasons combined.

Ronaldo is currently on around €60m per-season and is entering the final year of his contract, but the chances of another club stepping in to try and sign him this summer is so, so low. His wages are insane and it’s unlikely that a club so desperate for the European Super League because of their financial situation is likely to be able to just pay him off.

It’s hard to see Pirlo and Ronaldo both being at the club at the start of next season and if I had to bet money on one of them leaving it would be Pirlo. But something tells me that Juventus may see next year as another write off campaign.

Focus on securing a better season, then the following season start over without Pirlo and without the huge burden of Ronaldo in the team for the new manager to work with and build from.

It’s certainly a situation to keep an eye on, and one that no matter what way it goes won’t totally be a surprise.

Lille crowned champions of France as Juventus scrape Champions League qualification

Paris Saint-Germain are not the champions of France anymore, after Lille were crowned the winners of Ligue 1 thanks to their win over Angers on the final day.

The French title race went down to the wire, with PSG needing to better Lille’s result on Sunday to be able to leapfrog them at the final hurdle and win the title for a fourth straight season.

It was never on the cards on the day though, as Lille took an early lead and never looked back. Record signing Jonathan David was put through on goal by Renato Sanches and slotted past the goalkeeper, before Burak Yilmaz smashed a penalty home on the stroke of half-time to all but seal the title in the first half.

PSG had an eventful first half of their own, with Neymar missing a penalty after mind games from the Brest goalkeeper before Angel Di Maria scored directly from a corner. Kylian Mbappe added another in the second half but that wasn’t enough though as Lille stayed firm throughout the second half of their game to be crowned champions for the first time since the 2010/11 season.

It’s an incredible achievement from Christophe Galtier’s side, who have blended youth and experience brilliantly and maintained a very exciting style of play to be able to go toe-to-toe with the billionaires in the capital.

Mauricio Pochettino’s job when appointed in January was to ensure success. While he has won two domestic cups since joining, the club were eliminated at the semi-final stage of the Champions League by Manchester City and now were pipped to the title too, in a league many deem to be a one-horse race.

Considering he only signed an 18-month contract on arrival, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the Qatari owners decide to cut ties now and bring someone else in this summer with a more long-term view at things.

Elsewhere on the continent in Italy, Juventus were able to scrape qualification into the Champions League on the final day after Napoli failed to beat Verona and they beat Bologna 4-1.

FBL-ITA-SERIEA-BOLOGNA-JUVENTUS : News Photo
Ronaldo watches on as an unused substitute

Manager Andrea Pirlo made the unthinkable decision to drop Cristiano Ronaldo from the team for the must-win game, but the choice worked brilliantly as the Bianconeri raced into a 3-0 lead in the first-half. Ronaldo didn’t even come on as Juventus waited patiently, but as Napoli failed to break down Verona and were held to a 1-1 draw their fate was confirmed.

They’ll be joined in the competition by AC Milan, who beat Atalanta 2-0 thanks to two Franck Kessie penalties to finish 3rd and qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 2014.

Milan had led the table for a short period during the winter, but eventually faded away and as injuries and poor form picked up their season threatened to spiral out of control. Stefano Pioli was able to manage the situation well though and saw the team win four of their last five games to secure a wonderful season for themselves.

While Ronaldo’s future will almost certainly now be called into question, Juventus will be delighted to have been able to qualify after a very rocky season. They can now focus on rebuilding the squad, with or without Pirlo and Ronaldo, to try and reclaim their place as Italy’s best.

As for PSG, they also have some big decisions to make this summer. Despite the hundreds of millions spent revamping the squad over the years, they are still in need of some big upgrades at full-back and in midfield. Add to that the fact that Mbappe is entering the final year of his contract and there is a lot going on that needs to be addressed this summer.