Manchester United are in the dark over when Cristiano Ronaldo will return to start his pre-season training, as Chelsea weigh up a move for the Portuguese forward.
Ronaldo missed his first scheduled appearance at United’s Carrington training ground yesterday due to “family reasons”, and while United insist they are sensitive to the genuine personal issues that have required Ronaldo to stay in Lisbon, there is no set date in place for his return.
Sources claimed it was “unclear” when he would return, casting doubt over whether he would join his team for their pre-season tour of Asia and Australia, which starts on Friday. It effectively amounts to a case of “indefinite leave” for the United striker, in the wake of the news that he wants to quit the club after less than 12 months.
One club interested in Ronaldo are United’s Premier League rivals Chelsea, with new co-owner Todd Boehly ready to ask head coach Thomas Tuchel whether he wants to make a bid for the 37-year-old.
Ronaldo has informed United that he wants to leave this summer, which will prompt Boehly, who is acting sporting director, to discuss the Portuguese with head coach Tuchel, who is a known admirer of Ronaldo.
But it’s understood the German is yet to discuss with Boehly whether he would actually want to sign him and whether he believes he could fit into his team and style of play.
Some sources have indicated that Tuchel will tell Boehly he would be wary of signing Ronaldo and that the priority must be up to three new defenders, as well as Raheem Sterling.
Boehly has met with Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes, but will not sign any player his head coach does not want or does not believe is the right fit – effectively giving him the right of veto on any signing.
Chelsea have no idea whether their Premier League rivals would sell to them, how much they might demand or what the player’s requirements would be.
Moves to source that information will be made only if Tuchel gives the green light. Chelsea last week confirmed the departure of Romelu Lukaku on loan to Inter Milan and, other than Ronaldo, there is a lack of out-and-out goalscoring strikers to target.
A desire to play in the Champions League is thought to be behind Ronaldo’s desire to leave and, as well as Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Napoli have been linked with the player. United are likely to be more open to selling to an overseas club.
Yesterday, pictures emerged of Ronaldo at the Portuguese national team’s training complex in Lisbon. Ronaldo’s partner, Georgina Rodriguez, is in the city, along with his extended family.
Chelsea will continue to prioritise moves for their confirmed targets, such as Manchester City’s Sterling, who the club hope to make significant progress on this week.
Following positive talks last week, Chelsea hope to agree a fee, which will most likely top £45m (€52.2m), and personal terms with Sterling in time for him to join Tuchel’s squad on the club’s pre-season tour, starting this weekend.
Chelsea would ideally like to add a central defender alongside Sterling ahead of the tour. Talks have been held with Matthijs de Ligt, Nathan Ake, Jules Kounde, Presnel Kimpembe and Kalidou Koulibaly.
Chelsea need to sign at least two new defenders. Reports from Germany have claimed Bayern Munich have made their own approach to Juventus for De Ligt.
Chelsea still have a £55m (€63.8m), plus add-ons, bid on the table for Leeds United’s Raphinha, who is thought to prefer a move to Barcelona.
Chelsea decided against joining the clubs who made offers to Christian Eriksen, who has agreed to join United on a three-year contract.
Eriksen spent the end of last season on loan with Brentford. It is understood that Brentford made it clear to Eriksen that they would shatter their wage structure to keep him.
Sources indicate that clubs were informed that Eriksen wanted a contract worth £200,000 (€232k) a week, plus a £10m (€11.6m) signing-on fee, but it is unclear whether United have met those alleged demands.
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