Cristiano Ronaldo's need for love, respect helped push him to Juventus
Cristiano Ronaldo loves to be loved. Forget the trophies, the Ballons d'Or and the goals: when you peel back all of the superficial players, he is simply a guy who wants love and respect and, therefore, his move to Juventus ticks those boxes.
When Ronaldo returned to Old Trafford in 2013 for the first (and so far only) time to face Manchester United with Real Madrid in the Champions League, Sir Alex Ferguson instructed the club's PA announcer to break with tradition and read out the Real team second, with Ronaldo left as the last player to have his name read out. Alan Keegan, United's PA man, followed Ferguson's instructions and the reception Ronaldo was granted made hairs stand up on the back of 70,000 necks. Just as Ferguson anticipated, Ronaldo was so taken by the standing ovation that his focus was clearly distracted in the opening stages.
Ronaldo is so often projected as the pantomime villain in his battle for supremacy with Lionel Messi that any kind of affection is soaked up, so it is perhaps no surprise that he has traded Real for Juventus having already been given the respect he so craves by the supporters of the Italian giants.
Back in April, after Ronaldo's stunning overhead-kick goal against Juve was greeted with a standing ovation in Turin, nobody could possibly have envisaged the 33-year-old signing for the Old Lady just three months later.
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Unless he knew differently, Ronaldo himself is unlikely to have had the Italian champions as his first-choice destination should he leave Real, but the gesture from the supporters that night will have left its mark on the Portuguese forward. Juventus showed him respect when he was an opponent; just imagine how much he will be indulged as one of their own.
The Ronaldo narrative always suggested that he would only ever leave Real for a return to Man United. After all, his former club made enough attempts to bring him back to Old Trafford, but on one occasion at least, Man United's interest was used merely to get a better deal from Real. Memories of being used by Ronaldo left scars at Man United -- they still tried again once more, without success -- but at 33, maybe even the richest club in the world believed that the sums just did not add up to bring him back this time.
Paris Saint-Germain have also flirted with Ronaldo, but their lavish investment in Neymar and Kylian Mbappe forced them out of the running. It meant Juventus suddenly presented itself as a much better move than Ronaldo could possibly have expected.
The serial Italian champions are a huge club with a global fan base. They may not be Real or Man United, but they are not far behind, and Juve can offer Ronaldo another lorry-load of trophies over the course of his contract. Any move from Real is a step down, but Juventus is one step rather than several.
At 33, Ronaldo may have had to consider a move to China or even the MLS if Juventus had not come along. Remaining at Real would have been another option, but it seems that neither Ronaldo nor the Spanish giants were amenable to that.
Juventus is a storied club with iconic former players and Ronaldo will relish the opportunity to add his name to their roll of honour. Paolo Rossi, Michel Platini, Zinedine Zidane, Pavel Nedved, Roberto Baggio, Alessandro del Piero and Gianluigi Buffon all have their images plastered on the walls of Juve's Allianz Stadium, and you can bet that Ronaldo will do something to earn his place alongside them. He may be 33, but he is still such a consummate, dedicated professional that Juventus can expect plenty of return on their investment.
Ronaldo was the Champions League's top scorer last season and he hit four goals at the World Cup, so he is still a goal scorer to be feared. And with Juventus desperate to win the Champions League after so many years of dominance in Italy, he will be given the stage to help inspire them to their long-awaited third European Cup.
Maybe it is all about Ronaldo's ego and the chance to win more trophies in Serie A, but it is not the one-team league that it has been for most of the seven consecutive seasons Juve have won the title. Napoli are a threat, with Carlo Ancelotti's arrival as coach this summer highlighting their ambition, while Roma's run to the Champions League semifinal last season underlined their determination to challenge Juve's supremacy. Inter Milan are back in the Champions League, and AC Milan, subject to takeover talk, will always expect to be the best in Italy.
So, Ronaldo has signed up for a challenge as well as a change of scenery. But he still has it in him to take another league by storm, and that is why Juventus have made such a bold move by signing him.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_