Last summer was quite the rollercoaster. The transfer market gave us things we couldn’t imagine in our wildest dreams. The two most recognisable footballers on the planet both left their current homes to seek out pastures new.
Lionel Messi’s departure from the Nou Camp was unfathomable, but courtesy of Barcelona’s crippling debt – rumoured to be as much as €1.35 bn – that’s what happened. He arrived in Paris to sign for PSG amid scenes of chaos. He was about to be one-third of perhaps the deadliest front three in football history, alongside his former teammate Neymar and the apparent chosen one, Kylian Mbappe.
And while this was going on, another superstar was flying a little further north on a private jet. More than that, a king was returning home. Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United 12 years after his £80m move to Real Madrid came out of nowhere.
Ronaldo was initially rumoured to be joining their archrivals Manchester City, but the Red Devils moved heaven and earth to ensure that their prodigal son would return to Old Trafford. But since then, things haven’t gone to plan.
Ronaldo’s still at his best
On a personal level, Portugal’s captain had one of his greatest ever campaigns. Despite now being 37 years of age, he netted 24 times in 37 Premier League and Champions League games last season in one of Manchester United’s worst-ever teams. Those goals were some of his most incredible and, alongside his recent UEFA Nations League heroics, have taken his career total to a mammoth 815.
But those goals haven’t papered over the cracks at English football’s most successful club. He returned to Manchester to take The Reds back to their glory days; however, his side was battling West Ham United for sixth place last term.
It’s hard to imagine that the great man came back to play in the Europa League.
While the Portuguese superstar was battling the Hammers, his former teammates Karim Benzema and Luka Modric defeated Liverpool to lift their fifth Champions League crown.
Since Real Madrid lifted their 14th ‘Big Eared’ trophy, bookmakers have axed odds on Ronaldo returning to the Bernabeu down to 7/2. And why wouldn’t he want to return? He bagged a mammoth 450 goals during his nine-year spell in the Spanish capital. Even with the huge amount of fixtures played in the modern game, to top that, you would need to score at least 50 goals a season.
Messi’s disappointing first campaign
And while Los Blancos’ record goalscorer had an incredible season personally, the same cannot be said for his rival in the GOAT stakes. Lionel Messi’s time thus far at the Parc De Princes has been underwhelming, to see the least.
The Argentinian Magician was brought to Paris by Nasser Al-Khelaifi to secure the French champions’ maiden Champions League victory; however, an all too familiar collapse – to none other than Real Madrid, Messi’s great rivals – put an end to those dreams. He even managed to miss a penalty in the first leg, and if he was struggling to endear himself to the Parisian faithful before that miss, it was nigh on impossible to do so after it.
Domestically, PSG wrapped up their ninth Ligue 1 title in 11 years, but they would have done so with or without Messi, and the numbers he posted during that domestic campaign were less than impressive.
He managed just six goals in the league, albeit while recording an impressive number of assists. He also added five goals in Europe, but the fact remains that the 10-time French Champions have not seen a return on their massive investment. There is one place that La Pulga will forever be adored, though.
A return home?
That place, of course, is in his adopted home of Catalunya. The Blaugrana’s former number ten is still adored in Barcelona, despite his painful exit 12 months ago. And how could he not be, after recording 672 goals in 778 games and leading their all-time scoring charts by some 440 goals?
Nothing’s been confirmed on either front at the moment, but don’t be surprised if we see not one but two heroes return to their thrones in the coming months.