The relationship between Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United is over after months of drama between the five-time Ballon d’Or winner and the Premier League’s most valuable club.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is to leave Manchester United by mutual agreement, with immediate effect,” Man United said in a statement. “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.”
Tension had been building between Ronaldo and his club all season, as he saw little playing time. It reached a head last week when Ronaldo, in an interview with Piers Morgan, said he doesn’t respect Man United manager Erik Ten Hag and that the club had made “zero progress” since Alex Ferguson had retired in 2013.
The Portuguese striker was playing under a two-year contract but can now join any squad without waiting until the January transfer window. Ronaldo is currently in Qatar for the World Cup, where Portugal will play Ghana in its first group stage match on Thursday.
In May, Ronaldo ranked third on Sportico’s list of highest-paid athletes with $115 million, behind LeBron James and Lionel Messi. He was expected to top $100 million again this season, including his pre-tax salary of roughly $50 million, but will now likely fall short of the nine-figure club.
Ronaldo still holds the most valuable endorsement portfolio in the sport, with off-field earnings estimated at $60 million. His partners include Nike, Herbalife, Livescore, Altice, Binance and Therabody.
This week, Ronaldo became the first person to amass 500 million followers on Instagram. The milestone corresponded with a post showcasing Ronaldo and Messi playing chess in an ad for Louis Vuitton shot by photographer Annie Leibovitz. The post has amassed 39 million likes, second most ever on the social media platform.
“I love Manchester United and I love the fans, that will never ever change,” Ronaldo said in his own statement on Tuesday. “However, it feels like the right time for me to seek a new challenge.”