Is Sir Alex Ferguson really plotting to bring Cristiano Ronaldo back to Old Trafford? This story has snowballed both in England and Spain, and whilst it’s easy to dismiss it out of hand, it increasingly looks as though there may be some semblance of truth to it. Reports in Spain are suggesting that Ronaldo is far from happy with life at Real. The Portugal international, who has scored twice so far this season in Real’s opening five games, has struggled a little for form. Fergie is supposedly monitoring the situation, a quote from Old Trafford claiming:
“Alex wants Ronaldo back, no question. He’s in regular contact with him and is giving support but is actually hoping Madrid have a poor year and win nothing so the fans get on his back and Cristiano gets disillusioned.”
Whilst the notion of Sir Alex willing Real to fail in everything they do is far from unbelievable, is the idea of a Ronaldo return? Fans have been booing him in a couple of Real’s games this season; Ronaldo is hardly the sort of player to respond well to such criticism. The adoration of the fans over here can hardly be a distant memory for him.
And such a comeback is by no means unprecedented. Here’s a couple of other shock returns in English football.
Ian Rush – Juventus to Liverpool, 1988
Sceptics might suggest that there were political motivations behind Ian Rush’s switch to Juventus in 1986 (though he would stay at Liverpool on loan for the 1986-87 season): two years on from the Heysel Stadium disaster, the clubs were keen to portray a healthy relationship between them. That, and the desire for European competition from which English sides were banned, saw Rush head to Italy for a solitary year. He struggled to adapt to Italian life, and football, in a season in which he netted just seven times. The following summer, Liverpool broke the Brisith transfer record to bring him back to Merseyside for £2.7million, where he’d stay until moving to Leeds eight years later.
Mark Hughes – Barcelona to Manchester United, 1988
Since making his United debut in 1983, Mark Hughes had established himself as one of their most important players before his shock move to Barcelona in 1986. Another player lured to mainland Europe for the lure of continental competition, Hughes struggled in his only season in Spain, scoring just 4 times in 28 league games. He was loaned out to Bayern Munich for the 1987-88 season, but a relative increase in form in Germany wasn’t enough for Barca to hold onto the Welshman. United, by this point managed by Alex Ferguson, paid a then-club record £1.8million to bring the fan favourite back to Old Trafford. Hughes stayed at United for another seven years, before falling victim to Fergie’s 1995 clearout to bring his famous youngsters through.
Teddy Sheringham – Manchester United to Tottenham Hotspur, 2001
Sheringham had been a favourite at White Hart Lame, scoring 99 in 196 games in his first spell in North London. His reputation at Spurs was tainted, however, when he moved Old Trafford in 1997. United fans met the signing with scepticism, who saw him as an inadequate replacement for the recently retired Eric Cantona. After an early struggle, Sheringham sealed a place in United’s history, scoring the equaliser against Bayern in that ludicrously dramatic finale to the ’99 Champions League final. He was United’s top scorer in their title-winning 2000-01 season with 21 goals, being voted PFA Player of the Year at the ripe old age of 35. New Spurs boss Glenn Hoddle jumped on the opportunity to re-sign Sheringham when his contract expired in the summer of 2001, and despite his advancing years, managed 26 goals in 80 games in his final two years with Spurs.
The cases of Rush and Hughes may be telling here, however. Both were British players who struggled on the continent, but more importantly, both involved their former clubs breaking their transfer records to bring them back. It’s hard to imagine United having the money to break their current record of £30.75million (Dimitar Berbatov, 2008) in order to re-sign him, let alone the £80million it cost Real to buy him in the first place.
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