Ronaldo returns to Man Utd: Neymar, Messi, LeBron and other transfers that shocked the world

By Sports Desk August 31, 2021

A whirlwind day last Friday saw Manchester United reach an agreement with Juventus to bring Cristiano Ronaldo back to the club.

The deal was confirmed just hours after it had looked likely the Portugal star would be heading to Premier League champions Manchester City instead.

According to reports, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer encouraged the club to enter the race when it began to seem inevitable Ronaldo would head to the Etihad Stadium. Contact from Bruno Fernandes, Rio Ferdinand and even Alex Ferguson helped persuade Ronaldo that a return to Manchester could mean only one thing.

It all made for a short-lived but extraordinary transfer saga that ended with United re-signing a player who made history with the club between 2003 and 2009, winning three Premier League titles, the Champions League and the first of his five Ballons d'Or.

Here, Stats Perform looks at some other deals that caused a shock in the sporting world...

 

Lionel Messi: Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, 2021

In the most sensational free transfer of all time, PSG again laid down a marker to the football world with the signing of Lionel Messi on a two-year contract. Just as he looked to sign a new Barcelona contract, the club informed him that their dire financial situation meant they could not bring their greatest ever player back under LaLiga's salary restrictions after his previous deal expired in June. A tearful Messi said farewell to the only club he had ever played for before heading to the fanfare of Paris and a reunion with Neymar.

Neymar: Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, 2017

The Brazilian had formed a potent attacking trio with Messi and Luis Suarez at Camp Nou but a move to PSG was inevitable when the French side met his world-record buyout clause of €222million. He has played an important role in their continued dominance of French domestic football but has so far been unable to guide them to Champions League glory. He was reduced to tears by his side's 1-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the 2020 final and then failed to inspire the team in the 2021 semis as Manchester City knocked them out.

LeBron James: Cleveland Cavaliers to Miami Heat, 2010

Basketball icon James announced he would sign with the Miami Heat instead of returning to his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a six-time All-Star, James added to the spectacle of the stunning move by announcing it on a special television broadcast called The Decision. He enjoyed four years in Miami, where he won a pair of NBA titles, before returning to the Cavaliers in 2014. 

Tom Brady: New England Patriots to Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2020

Few people expected Brady to leave the Patriots after 20 years and six Super Bowl victories. Not only did one of the game's greatest ever quarterbacks leave, but he joined one of the least successful franchises in NFL history and instantly guided them to glory, leading the Buccaneers to the franchise's second Lombardi Trophy with a 31-9 triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

Luis Figo: Barcelona to Real Madrid, 2000

Should Messi ever return to Camp Nou as an opposition player it is unlikely he will be on the receiving end of the kind of abuse that greeted Figo. Barca fans threw bottles, lighters and even a pig's head at the Portuguese star when he went back to Camp Nou with Los Blancos in the seasons following his controversial move.

Wayne Gretzky: Edmonton Oilers to Los Angeles Kings, 1988

In 1988, the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings agreed a deal that shook the NHL to its core. The trade left Canada in disbelief, with a member of the country's parliament even proposing the federal government block the trade or buy Gretzky's contract and sell it to another Canadian team. "The Great One" would go on to enjoy eight successful years in Los Angeles before spells with St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers.

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  • From back to front, and Haaland – five players for Rangnick to consider for Man Utd From back to front, and Haaland – five players for Rangnick to consider for Man Utd

    Ralf Rangnick has been confirmed as interim manager of Manchester United, meaning that thoughts can now turn to more important matters.

    Yes, transfers.

    While the 63-year-old is only set to be in the dugout until the end of the season, his deal includes a further two years in a "consultancy" role, meaning he will presumably have a say on comings and goings at Old Trafford for the foreseeable future.

    As well as showing his qualities as a coach and tactician during his career, Rangnick has also shown himself to be adept at identifying and recruiting talent, scouting the likes of Joshua Kimmich, Sadio Mane and Erling Haaland over the years.

    While funds have been readily spent by United in recent times, it seems clear that the current squad needs more adding to it if they are to trouble their rivals for Premier League and Champions League glory any time soon.

    Using Opta data, Stats Perform has taken a look at five players who may be near the top of Rangnick's wish-list over the next few transfer windows.

     

    Gleison Bremer (Torino)

    The Brazilian centre back has predominantly been linked with other clubs, including Liverpool, but his ability to win the ball high up the field as well as make interceptions regularly could make him an attractive prospect for Rangnick's pressing style.

    Bremer has the most interceptions for a defender in the top five European leagues this season (51), and since the start of last season has made 121, which is almost twice as many as Harry Maguire (68) from just one more game played.

    The 24-year-old has also won possession in the middle-third of the pitch (127) more often than any of United's current centre back options (Maguire 85, Victor Lindelof 78, Raphael Varane 62), which is something the new boss will likely be demanding of his players.

     

    Aurelien Tchouameni (Monaco)

    Despite their pre-season spending, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was unable to cross a defensive midfielder off his shopping list, with poor Scott McTominay and Fred continuing to be castigated by fans and pundits for not being Declan Rice.

    Someone else who isn't Declan Rice is Tchouameni. The Monaco midfielder has been linked with a move to the Premier League for a couple of years now, and this could be the ideal club at the ideal time.

    Of players to have played at least 40 games, only three midfielders in the top five European leagues have won possession in the middle third more often since the start of last season, while only five have made more interceptions, and only Frenkie de Jong (64.36) has a higher duel success percentage than his 62.06.

    During his time recruiting for Red Bull Salzburg and Leipzig, Rangnick primarily focused on young players who can grow in the immediate term. Tchouameni turns 22 in January, and with Monaco missing out on Champions League football after losing in qualifying in August, they may be tempted to cash in on their star sooner rather than later.

     

    Amadou Haidara (RB Leipzig)

    it was always inevitable that United would be linked with Leipzig players, so here's the first of two.

    The new United boss will no doubt be familiar with Haidara, with the midfielder making his way through the Red Bull route of FC Liefering and Salzburg before Leipzig.

    The Mali international arrived at the Red Bull Arena when Rangnick was in charge in the 2018-19 season, but due to a cruciate ligament injury, was only able to make nine Bundesliga appearances under the German.

    Comparing him to McTominay and Fred, this season he has more chances created (9), more successful passes in the opposition half (317), more passes into the final third (95) and more dribbles completed (16).

    It should be noted though that he has played two games more than McTominay and measures closely to the Scot in the first and last metric, with worse passing accuracy percentage in the opposition half (78.86) and tackle success percentage than both (38.46).

     

    Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig)

    Olmo has unfortunately missed most of the current season with a muscle injury, but combined with last term, there is a certain number that may interest the Red Devils boss.

    Verona's Antonin Barak is the only midfielder to have won possession in the final third more often than Olmo's total of 44 in the top five leagues in Europe since the start of last season, made all the more impressive by the fact Olmo has played 12 fewer games.

    The 23-year-old scored seven and assisted 12 last season for Leipzig in all competitions, and also impressed for Spain at Euro 2020, and having someone who so regularly wins the ball high up the field could be exactly the sort of thing Rangnick can build a new United team around.

     

    Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)

    Arguably the name likeliest to be linked with the Red Devils given it was Rangnick who apparently spotted his talents and brought him to Salzburg, before he burst onto the scene and headed for the German Bundesliga.

    Rangnick was working as Salzburg's director of football when he was able to secure the signing of Haaland from Molde.

    Of course, United already have Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani, but both are hardly long-term solutions, while Haaland's former team-mate Jadon Sancho already resides in the red half of Manchester.

    The 21-year-old has scored 71 goals in 70 games since moving to Dortmund (January 2020), the same amount as Ronaldo but in 15 fewer games.

    You would imagine Haaland, his agent and his father would need to see some fairly drastic improvements at Old Trafford before committing his future there, but with Rangnick on board, the Red Devils will be hoping that to be exactly what happens.

  • Neymar ruled out for six to eight weeks with ankle injury Neymar ruled out for six to eight weeks with ankle injury

    Paris Saint-Germain have confirmed Neymar will be out for six to eight weeks with an ankle injury.

    The Brazil star was taken off on a stretcher during the closing stages of the 3-1 win over Saint-Etienne and was seen leaving the stadium on crutches.

    Head coach Mauricio Pochettino said he did not expect the injury to be serious, but tests have shown Neymar has sprained the ligaments in his left ankle.

    PSG said on Monday that a further update on his recovery time would follow this week.

    Should Neymar be sidelined for two months, he would miss eight games in all competitions, including PSG's final Champions League group game against Club Brugge and the league trip to Lyon on January 8.

    The 29-year-old has struggled for top form in 2021-22, managing three goals and three assists in 14 appearances in all competitions.

  • Patriots blocking out the noise after stretching win streak to six Patriots blocking out the noise after stretching win streak to six

    The New England Patriots are ignoring the noise surrounding their six-game winning streak after maintaining that run by brushing aside the Tennessee Titans.

    A dominant second-half showing propelled the Patriots to a 36-13 win over a banged-up Titans team that had previously been the top seed in the AFC.

    It is now the Patriots who have their eye on the number one seed after displacing the Titans, with only the Baltimore Ravens (8-3) above the 8-4 Patriots in that race.

    But head coach Bill Belichick and his players are giving little regard to talk of their playoff positioning with five games still to play in the regular season.

    "Eight games – look, eight games isn't enough to clinch anything or win anything," said Belichick. "We have a long way to go."

    Edge rusher Matthew Judon, who registered another sack to take his tally to 11.5, insists the Patriots are in the same place mentally as they were prior to the winning streak and rejected claims of this being a statement victory for New England.

    "It is the same confidence. We didn't change, we won't waver and it is the same confidence we had when we were 2-4," Judon replied when asked about their confidence level.

    "It doesn't matter if it is a tight game or a blowout, our confidence won't change and we won't waver as a team, as a unit and as players. We come in this building to work every day and we are only going to continue to get better."

    "I think someone asked me that a couple weeks ago and the statement or whatever you want to call it, is we have to come out here and win every single game.

    "One week at a time so if we don't give up any points and no yards, that game is a statement and every week we have to strive for a statement win.

    "If you want to call this a statement or if you just want to call it the next game, we just have to take it week by week and go out there. The statement for us is on to the next week."

    The Patriots face the Buffalo Bills, whom they have leapfrogged for the AFC East lead, in Week 13.

    And wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, who scored two touchdowns against the Titans, believes that could be the game to give a clear picture of where the Patriots stand.

    "I don't think there is a ceiling at all. We try to emphasise that. [Matthew] Slater just talked to us after about not getting overzealous about ourselves," said Bourne. "Just being in the moment and playing each game, each week, and thinking about that game.

    "We're onto Buffalo now and that's the focus. That'll be good for us to just certify ourselves."

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