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Cristiano Ronaldo to Man City: How would he fit in under Pep Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium?

Updated: Oct 6

Cristiano Ronaldo is in talks with Man City over a sensational return to the Premier League; former Man Utd forward has scored 101 goals in 134 games for Juventus but how would he fit in at the Etihad Stadium?

When Manchester City's protracted pursuit of Harry Kane finally came to a fruitless end earlier this week, there was little indication that an even bigger story might be brewing.

But as Tuesday's transfer deadline draws closer, it is becoming increasingly likely that Manchester City will complete a sensational move to sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Juventus.


It would be a tough one to take for Manchester United fans, who still cherish his impact at Old Trafford, but how would Ronaldo fit in under Pep Guardiola? And, at 36, is he still worth the expense?


Ronaldo will turn 37 in February and is undoubtedly a different player from the one who left the Premier League more than a decade ago. But he remains an exceptional goalscorer.

His output is no longer at the extraordinary heights of his peak years at Real Madrid, where he regularly surpassed the 50-goal mark, but he will leave Juventus having netted 101 times in 134 games for the Italian giants at an average of nearly 34 per season.


Ronaldo was unable to prevent Juventus from slumping to a disappointing fourth-place finish in Serie A last season but he was no less prolific in front of goal.

In fact, his total of 29 Serie A goals put him five clear of anyone else in the division. Across Europe's major leagues, only two players - Lionel Messi (30) and Robert Lewandowski (41) - scored more.


Ronaldo followed up those domestic scoring exploits with a five-goal haul for Portugal at Euro 2020, eclipsing Miroslav Klose as the top-scoring player at World Cups and European Championships and equalling the all-time international scoring record on 109 goals.

Age has not blunted his goalscoring instincts and it hasn't made him any less robust either. Across his three full seasons in Turin, Ronaldo featured in 85 per cent of Juventus' Serie A fixtures and an even higher percentage of their Champions League games.

Those numbers will encourage City and Guardiola that he has plenty left to offer. At 36 years old, he remains one of the world's best players and, crucially, he still brings a guarantee of goals.


The No 9 City crave?


With Sergio Aguero absent and out of favour for much of last season and Gabriel Jesus unable to find the consistency required in front of goal, Guardiola was forced to improvise.

Ferran Torres, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva and even Kevin De Bruyne were deployed as false nines while Ilkay Gundogan was converted into a goalscoring midfielder.

By the end of the campaign, however, no City player had hit more than 17 goals in all competitions. The one weakness in Guardiola's formidable squad was clear to see.

"We don't have a single player who can win a game, we don't have a Cristiano, a Messi, a Neymar," said Guardiola. "We don't have these types of players who can win games by themselves."


City's efforts to sign Kane underlined Guardiola's desire to change that, to bring in an elite-level striker who could spearhead his team, and it will now fall to Ronaldo to fulfil the role.

The Portuguese was of course an explosive winger when he left Manchester United for Real Madrid in 2009 but over the years his focus has changed to the opposition's penalty box.

That is not to say he has deserted the flanks. At Juventus, Ronaldo was used as one of two central strikers alongside Alvaro Morata, meaning he still had freedom to drift towards the left, from where he was able to cut inside onto his stronger foot.


At City, however, Guardiola's preference for a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation means Ronaldo would likely play as a lone striker and may therefore be required to position himself more centrally.

Some adjustment may be required but it is unlikely to be much of an issue for Ronaldo. After all, even at Juventus, he scored the majority of his goals from between the width of the posts.

It is from those areas that City would aim to harness Ronaldo's goalscoring prowess but his ability to drop deeper and link the play could prove another asset to Guardiola.

Should the circumstances demand it, the City boss will know Ronaldo is more than capable of playing as a false nine as well as a more traditional striker.


Aerial strength to add new dimension?


One area in which Ronaldo would undoubtedly help City is aerially. He was not known for his heading ability as a young player but it has become a formidable weapon over the course of his career.

Some of his most memorable goals have been scored with his head.

His winner for Real Madrid in the 2011 Copa del Rey final sticks in the memory and so does his towering header in the 2008 Champions League final triumph for Manchester United against Chelsea.


There have been plenty more examples since his move to Juventus - not least the gravity-defying leap that allowed him to find the net in a Serie A game against Sampdoria in December 2019 - and last season he was particularly prolific.

In fact, his total of seven headed goals in Serie A was the highest in the division and the second-highest in any of Europe's major leagues behind only Andre Silva and Sasa Kalajdzic, who were playing for Eintracht Frankfurt and Stuttgart respectively.


Nobody at Manchester City even came close to Ronaldo's total, with Raheem Sterling the only player in Guardiola's squad to score more than once with his head last season. In fact, no City player even reached double figures for headed shots.

Guardiola prefers his teams to keep the ball on the ground, of course. City's crosses are generally aimed to feet rather than heads. But Ronaldo's aerial prowess would give them a different dimension.


An atypical Guardiola player


Ronaldo's persona is not that of a typical Guardiola player and the pair were of course on opposite sides of the bitter rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona during their time in Spain.

Relations were frosty during that period, summed up by a 2012 episode when Guardiola was seen to ignore Ronaldo's greeting at the Ballon d'Or ceremony, but if there was any genuine animosity, it has long cooled.

Guardiola described Ronaldo as "one of the best players of all-time" last year. In 2018, following his departure from Real Madrid, he labelled him "irreplaceable", adding: "He is incredible, not only for his goals but also for his assists in important moments."


Nonetheless, Ronaldo's ego is undoubtedly at odds with the culture in place at Manchester City.

Guardiola's squad is packed with quality but their strength is in the collective. How a soloist like Ronaldo would fit into the dressing room is unclear.

There are also question marks over how he would fit in stylistically. Ronaldo has never been known for his work out of possession but Guardiola's high-pressing tactics demand off-the-ball intensity in the attacking positions.


Ronaldo's major trophies


  • 5x Champions League

  • 3x Premier League

  • 2x La Liga

  • 2x Serie A

  • 1x European Championship

  • 1x FA Cup

  • 2x League Cup

  • 4x FIFA Club World Cup

  • 2x Copa del Rey

  • 1x Coppa Italia

  • 1x UEFA Nations League

  • 2x UEFA Super Cup


Even Sergio Aguero, already a Manchester City legend at the time of Guardiola's arrival, was required to adapt his game to fit in with the Catalan's approach.

Would Ronaldo be capable - or willing - to change his game in the same way at the age of 36? Or would Guardiola adjust his approach to accommodate him as he is? It may not be long until we find out.


View from Italy: was Ronaldo a success?


Two league titles, one Coppa Italia and one Italian Super Cup. Cristiano Ronaldo collected plenty of silverware during his three full seasons at Juventus. And that's before you count the two Serie A player of the year awards and a top scorer prize.

However, given the Italian side's poor record in the Champions League over that period, in which they managed one quarter-final appearance and two exits at the round-of-16 stage, was the 100m Euro transfer fee and 31m Euro per year wages worth it?

On the pitch, there can be few complaints about Ronaldo's personal numbers. While 21 league goals in his first season was his lowest return since his days at Manchester United, he was still the club's top scorer and responded with 60 goals across the next two campaigns, outscoring everyone else in Italy last year.

But given how his playing style has evolved, finding the right combination of players around him was essential for success in Europe but Massimiliano Allegri, Maurizio Sarri, and the inexperienced Andrea Pirlo were unable to find the answers.

The club's fourth-place finish last season - albeit in the face of improved competition from Inter Milan - perhaps reflected a failure over recent years to reinforce the squad appropriately.

Ronaldo's move to Juventus was about more than just football, though. There were $60m worth of shirt sales in the first 24 hours after his unveiling. Six million social media followers were added to Juve's accounts.

Would Juventus have achieved the results they did without him? Quite possibly. There's a good chance they'll go on to win Serie A without him this season. But he boosted the Juventus brand across the globe significantly and in this modern era that is hugely valuable. The club will be counting the cost of their spending on him for some time to come but they'll also be enjoying the rewards of the exposure he gave them.

Ronaldo drew people who had no affiliation with Juventus into stadiums. It has been reminiscent of the buzz Maradona created in Italian football in the past. And Juve supporters still adore him. They don't want to see him go.

But it seems Ronaldo will be trading in his secluded, heavily-guarded and private villa in the Turin hills this summer. By all accounts he has enjoyed his Italian adventure and the challenges of Serie A and while he wasn't able to inspire them to the ultimate prize, he has added more accolades to his trophy cabinet.

He doesn't come cheap but his Juventus experience proves to the next club investing in him that Ronaldo, even at the age of 36, still brings goals, glamour and global media attention.