Less than a month after Lionel Messi’s blockbuster exit from FC Barcelona, Cristiano Ronaldo is shaking up the soccer world with a move of his own.
The 36-year-old star has agreed to join Manchester United, which will pay Juventus around $40 million, depending on performance, to facilitate its new striker’s release, sources tell Forbes. Terms of Ronaldo’s new contract have not been disclosed, although sources familiar with the contract have said that some details are still being finalized and that, pending a physical, Ronaldo is set to sign on for the next two seasons.
Ronaldo is one of the most financially successful athletes in history. Last year, his annual earnings of $105 million made him the first soccer player to earn $1 billion (before taxes), according to Forbes estimates. Messi followed him just a few months later, and the two rivals remain the sport’s only players to have reached that milestone.
This year, Ronaldo ranked as the third-highest-paid athlete in the world, behind Conor McGregor and Messi, with earnings of $120 million—$70 million of that made on the pitch and $50 million from endorsements. In addition to a lifetime deal with Nike, his sponsors include DAZN, Herbalife, MTG and Unilever.
Cristiano Ronaldo has earned more than $100 million annually in each of his last four appearances on Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid athletes. He was No. 1 in 2017.
While the news is groundbreaking, it’s by no means unexpected. Reports have recently circulated that Juventus was eager to unload Ronaldo’s contract. ESPN reported in June that his representatives were checking in with other clubs on potential fits, and this week, multiple outlets posited that Manchester City had been angling to sign Ronaldo. Man City struck out in its quest to land Harry Kane from Tottenham Hotspur earlier this summer.
It’s a return to familiar territory for Ronaldo, who played for Manchester United from 2003 to 2009, winning three Premier League titles and the 2007-08 UEFA Champions League final. During his career, Ronaldo has scored 783 total senior team goals during domestic, cup, continental and international matches, more than any player in the history of the sport, including Pelé (although challenges to official scoring rules dispute this record). That figure includes 479 goals in domestic league matches and 109 goals while playing for Portugal on the international stage.
By Justin Birnbaum, Forbes Staff
By Christina Settimi, Forbes Staff