Cristiano Ronaldo has left Manchester United by “mutual agreement” in the aftermath of his making serious allegations in an interview, in an ignominious end to a supremely successful career at the club. He has left without a payoff and there are no restrictions on whom he can play for next.
United had appointed lawyers to explore potential action against Ronaldo for alleged breach of contract but their preferred option was to engineer his departure and that was confirmed on Tuesday.
A statement said: “Cristiano Ronaldo is to leave Manchester United by mutual agreement, with immediate effect. The club thanks him for his immense contribution across two spells at Old Trafford, scoring 145 goals in 346 appearances, and wishes him and his family well for the future. Everyone at Manchester United remains focused on continuing the team’s progress under Erik ten Hag and working together to deliver success on the pitch.”
Ronaldo’s allegations included that he was being forced out by United, that senior executives lacked empathy after his newborn son died in April, that the owners, the Glazer family, did not care about the club and that the manager, Ten Hag, did not respect him.
Ronaldo is with Portugal at the Qatar World Cup and in his absence United banned him from the training ground and explored potential legal action.
Ronaldo, who had about £13.5m left on a contract that expired in June, said: “Following conversations with Manchester United we have mutually agreed to end our contract early. I love Manchester United and I love the fans, that will never ever change. However, it feels like the right time for me to seek a new challenge.”
United may seek to replace him in January.
In his first spell at United, between 2003 and 2009, Ronaldo won the Champions League, three Premier Leagues, the FA Cup, two League Cups and the FIFA World Player of the Year award.
The manner of his exit and what predicated it, though, may seriously tarnish his reputation. He twice walked out of United games after Ten Hag took over, after letting it be known he wanted a transfer in the summer.
The first early departure came when Ronaldo was taken off at half-time of the July friendly visit of Rayo Vallecano to Old Trafford, Ten Hag having removed him because this was Ronaldo’s first action after missing most of pre-season because of a family issue. Although other United players including Diogo Dalot also departed early, Ronaldo was the only one in the match-day squad.
He received a warning from Ten Hag, yet before the final whistle of October’s 2-0 victory over Spurs the forward twice refused to enter as a substitute before exiting down the tunnel. The manager suspended Ronaldo for the next match but then made him captain at Aston Villa on 6 November, a 3-1 defeat.
That last appearance has proved Ronaldo’s last in a United shirt and his next move is unclear. In the summer Chelsea expressed interest but it is thought this was more the desire of the co-owner Todd Boehly than the then manager, Thomas Tuchel, who vetoed signing the player. It is understood Chelsea will not pursue Ronaldo now.
Napoli, who had been considered another option, recently ruled out signing him in January, though as a free agent Ronaldo can join a club at any time. If an acceptable side in Europe proves impossible another option is to consider playing in Major League Soccer, the Chinese Super League, or making a lucrative move to a western Asian club. Ronaldo recently claimed to have been offered a two-year contract worth €305m last summer to play for a Saudi Arabian team.