After nine glittering years at the Santiago Bernabeu, Cristiano Ronaldo has moved on. The Ballon d’Or holder has joined Serie A champions Juventus in a £105m deal. In an open letter to Real Madrid fans, the Portugal captain spoke of his pride to have played for Real Madrid and speaking of his need for “a new stage in [his] life”. In this vein, it seems the entire footballing landscape is about to enter a new era.
The saturation of big-money transfers over the past three years has made these transfers much less seismic. Rewind to 2009 and Ronaldo’s transfer to Real Madrid was covered with a ferocity that hasn’t been seen since. Ronaldo’s transfer this time around has been overshadowed by a World Cup. In the late noughties, the tournament would’ve like played second fiddle to the transfer of the world’s best.
The ever-climbing transfer fees and the realisation that this sort of spending is only going to get more common-place has desensitised football fans to a point where they just cannot be baited with the sensationalised transfer fees that were commonplace at the turn of the decade.
Ronaldo’s move is also the end of an era for another reason. No longer will the Messi-Ronaldo rivalry overshadow La Liga and the footballing discourse. The duo’s early exits from the World Cup seem to be a harbinger of a changing of the guard. The binary has been broken. The endless debate finally made irrelevant. The time has come for the next Ronaldo or Messi to reveal themselves.
For years, the face of Real Madrid was Ronaldo’s. A profound identity crisis could follow. Real Madrid would do well to do what they have done best over the last decade: buy the best in the world. However, this time it is different, they need an icon. They need the lynchpin of their side for the next decade. Moreover, with Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo and Benzema all now in their thirties, a failure to replace Ronaldo could signal an impending fall from grace for the side which has dominated Europe for the last five years.
This signing is a watershed moment for football, make no mistake. A new footballing epoch is about to begin. Strap yourselves in, ladies and gents.