A few years ago, a headline involving Ronaldo wanting to play in Major League Soccer would’ve only been something that you’d find at The Onion. However, things have changed greatly for both Ronaldo and MLS in recent years.
The report comes via Sports Illustrated, which claims “multiple sources” believe Ronaldo wants to come to MLS on a transfer fee in 2018, the year that his contract with Real Madrid ends.
That seems like a long time off and Ronaldo is already 30 years old. Furthermore, he would be 33 at the time of the transfer, which is a year older than David Beckham (32) when he came to the Los Angeles Galaxy. But then again, Ronaldo would still be younger than Manchester City’s Frank Lampard (37) and Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard (35), both of whom are set to land in America this summer.
When/if Ronaldo comes across the pond, his preferred destinations are the major-market cities: Los Angeles, New York and Miami. The L.A. Galaxy would be a very interesting destination seeing as how Beckham owns part of the team.
At the moment, the three-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner still has plenty of good years left in La Liga play. Ronaldo has supplied 30 goals and 11 assists in 24 matches, helping Real Madrid to a 21-1-5 record (64 points) so far – just one point behind Barcelona for first place.
Even still, there have been rumors swirling around the Real Madrid office regarding the star Portuguese striker. The biggest rumor suggests that president Florentino Perez is considering cashing in on Ronaldo while he’s still performing at a high level. This was back in mid-February, when Perez and the rest of the organization weren’t happy about Ronaldo celebrating his 30th birthday after a 4-0 loss to rival Atletico Madrid.
But assuming these remain just rumors and Ronaldo gets to move on to MLS in three years, then he won’t be alone regarding other stars playing there. Once considered a league where old timers watch their careers fizzle out, Major League Soccer seems to be attracting more and more international talent each year. Italy’s Sebastian Giovinco, Spain’s David Villa and Brazil’s Kaka are some of the biggest names that have come to the United States recently.
Kaka, who plays for the expansion team Orlando City, sees big things for MLS in the future. “A lot of players are looking for this league now,” he said. “[In] five, 10 years it will be one of the biggest in the world.”
As the L.A. Times reported, a big reason why these international players look to America is because they’re tired of battling for playing time on crowded European rosters. Here’s one excerpt from the article:
Two decades ago Italy’s Serie A was the top league in the world. But its teams were so deep with talented, veteran players that stars such as Ruud Gullit, Gianfranco Zola and Gianluca Vialli jumped to England in search of playing time, starting a foreign invasion that eventually aided in making the English Premier League the world’s most popular and lucrative soccer league.
“It seems like it’s taking the same form,” Bradley Wright-Phillips, who played mainly for lower-division clubs in England before joining the New York Red Bulls in 2013, said of MLS. “A lot of legends — people’s favorite players — go to a league … and they end up staying. I think we might be on to something.”
Of course, this isn’t to say that MLS will soon dethrone La Liga or the Premier League as the world’s top soccer league. However, when aging stars keep coming to MLS, and somebody like Ronaldo wants to play his final years in America, then that’s definitely saying something.