We gave every big six club Ronaldo on FM23 and it was a disaster
When Manchester United signed Cristiano Ronaldo last summer it was widely regarded as a bad decision that would backfire. His individualistic playing style, waning powers, and egotism in the dressing room were certain to get in the way at Old Trafford, as it seemingly did over two disappointing years at Juventus.
Everyone was proved right. Ronaldo is now a free agent after his spectacular fallout with the United hierarchy and, at the time of writing, the only offer on the table is one from Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr. It looks as though his time at the top of the game is over.
But with the power of Football Manager 2023 we can extend his stay in the Premier League and test whether Ronaldo would have fared any better elsewhere. His decision to join United over Manchester City 18 months ago certainly feels like a sliding doors moment, so here’s a chance to find out what Ronaldo would have achieved in the other half of Manchester – and beyond.
We cloned Ronaldo and gave him to each of the ‘Big Six’ Premier League clubs to see whether the 37-year-old’s still got it. Spoiler alert: it did not go well.
Man Utd benefit (sort of) from Ronaldo’s goals
To start with the positives, Ronaldo enjoyed scoring goals at Old Trafford on our sim even if the team did not have a good campaign.
He scored nine league goals from 15 starts and 24 substitute appearances, rotating in and out of the side as the club’s central striker much like he has done in real life, and in the Premier League, he was the club’s second-top goalscorer behind Bruno Fernandes (22).
But United came fifth, missing out on the Champions League spots by a single point, and were defeated 2-1 by Real San Sebastian in the Europa League final – a game in which Ronaldo was an unused substitute.
In fact, the Red Devils’ run to the final was the highlight of the club’s campaign and Ronaldo only managed a single start in the competition.
Ronaldo wins the Champions League with Liverpool
Towards the end of his time at Liverpool, Sadio Mane was often deployed as a central striker, and so it is no surprise that Jurgen Klopp benefitted from the addition of Ronaldo – a powerful centre-forward who could provide a similar vertical energy to the attack.
This is the only club at which Ronaldo succeeds.
And he wins big, collecting a sixth Champions League winners’ medal with a 2-1 win over Real Madrid in the final. Ronaldo played the full 90 minutes but did not score, winning his second trophy in a week after a penalty-shootout win in the FA Cup.
The Portuguese won’t mind that Liverpool came second; that he started fewer than half of their games; or that he scored just once in Europe.
Man City win the title without Ronaldo
Manchester City were the Premier League winners with 93 points, but lost in the semi-finals of the Champions League to Real Madrid and were beaten by Liverpool in the FA Cup final.
Nevertheless, it was another successful season for Pep Guardiola – and one achieved pretty much without Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo, competing with Erling Haaland up front, managed just 18 substitute appearances in the Premier League and not a single start.
In fact, he only started once in the FA Cup and once in the Champions League, ending the year with a grand total of just six goals.
Potter has no interest in Ronaldo
Chelsea were just as unimpressed with Ronaldo.
Graham Potter’s tactical complexity was never going to work effectively with someone like Ronaldo up front, and indeed he preferred the weirder option of converting Raheem Sterling into a striker, with the England international scoring 21 goals in all competitions and 18 in the league – just behind Golden Boot winner Mohamed Salah.
They came third in the Premier League and were knocked out of the cups early, mind, so Ronaldo would be justified in wondering why he wasn’t given more minutes.
His season ended with five goals in 30 games in all competitions. Just four of those were starts.
Kane and Jesus immovable objects for Ronaldo
To cap things off, Ronaldo couldn’t even get games at Tottenham Hotspur or Arsenal, where Harry Kane and Gabriel Jesus respectively were just too good to be taken out of the side.
Antonio Conte’s decision is more justified considering Kane, Heung-Min Son, and Richarlison scored 36 goals between them and Spurs took fourth, with Ronaldo starting just one league game and ending with two goals in all competitions.
Arsenal was Ronaldo’s nadir. They came sixth, and only six points above Aston Villa in seventh, with Ronaldo making a grand total of zero starts and eight substitute appearances in all competitions, scoring no goals.
Mikel Arteta just did not like the cut of his jib, even when Arsenal were in the doldrums.