Remembering Cristiano Ronaldo's legacy at Juventus

Cristiano Ronaldo was on top of the world back in the summer of 2018, having won four Champions League trophies in the last five years and cementing himself as the competition's greatest striker. In hindsight, it seemed that he was poised to enjoy his final years in his prime at Real Madrid, only for the entire world to get the news that he was leaving the Spanish capitol that transfer window.

It was a shock to the entire football community and the rumors of Ronaldo joining Italian giants Juventus became more and more prominent until it eventually became reality. It seemed like a very good deal for Juve, finally getting a player that could potentially get them over the line in the UEFA Champions League. However, Cristiano Ronaldo's time at Turin was a lot more complex than what most people would like to admit.

Cristiano Ronaldo here playing for Juventus

The context

Cristiano Ronaldo had been conquering the UEFA Champions League constantly with Real Madrid in recent years at the time, winning the competition constantly and him being the star performer in that amazing side. Furthermore, he also played a role in defeating Juventus in the 2016/17 Champions League final in Wales, with him scoring the first goal of the 4-1 victory for Los Blancos.

This was further emphasized in the quarterfinals of the competition in the 2017/18 season, when Madrid defeated Juventus 3-0 in the first leg in the latter's stadium, with Ronaldo scoring a brace and the second one being a now-legendary bicycle kick. It was a huge moment for the player as he had been attempting that goal for years and he even got the applause and recognition of the Juventus faithful, which would be monumental moving forward.

So, after winning the competition that season, it seemed that it was going to be a formality for the player to sign a new contract at Madrid and still for many more years. However, there were discrepancies with the club president, Florentino Perez, and Ronaldo ultimately chose to leave in the summer of 2018, with the club offering no resistance.

It was announced in July 2018 that he was signing a four-year contract for Juventus and the latter paid Madrid 100 million euros, which was a record fee for a player older than 30 years old. Ronaldo claimed in his presentation with Juve that he wanted a new challenge but later on, he backtracked and said that it was because of a lack of support from Perez.

Analyzing his time at Juventus

One could look at the numbers (101 goals in 134 games across all competitions in three seasons) and claim that Ronaldo was a success at Juventus. Considering his numbers as a goalscorer in Italy and the fact that his profile boosted Juve's, helping them gain a greater following in social media and even making more money in different business ventures, it could be argued that there was no downside in the Portuguese's stint in the Juventus Stadium.

However, football is not defined by social media numbers or even monetary gain, to some degree. The now-former Real Madrid had been signed because he seemed to be the missing link: the player capable enough to bridge the gap between Juventus and their coveted UEFA Champions League trophy. During manager Massimiliano Allegri's first tenure, from 2014 to 2019, the team reached two Champions League finals in 2014/15 and 2016/17, losing to the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich during those first four editions.

It made sense that bringing Ronaldo would make things better. It didn't. Juventus didn't reach the semifinals of the competition during Ronaldo's tenure at the club, being eliminated by the likes of Ajax, Lyon, and Porto, respectively. His final season was also the end of Juve's seven-year dominance in Serie A, losing the title to Antonio Conte's Inter Milan in 2021.

Ronaldo had arrived at an aging squad that needed a rebuild and his signing had severed Juventus' finances, which led to the player not being surrounded by enough quality to compete. Furthermore, the players who were already there were having issues finding a cohesive playing style with him.

During an interview with The Athletic in September of 2021, Juventus legend Leonardo Bonucci, who played with Ronaldo in the Italian giants, had his say about why things didn't work out with the Portuguese legend:

"Cristiano's presence influenced us a lot. Just training with him gave us something extra, but unconsciously the players began to think that his mere presence was enough to win games. We began to fall a little short in our daily work, humility, sacrifice, the desire to keep up with your teammate."

"It was assumed that if we gave the ball to Cristiano, he would win the game. But Cristiano needed the team as much as we needed him. There had to be compensation."


Ronaldo left Juventus for Manchester United in the last days of the 2021 summer transfer window, which led to another controversial stint in the Portuguese's career. Furthermore, this moment was also quite divisive among the Juve faithful since they felt he was abandoning them without the chance of getting a replacement, which soured his relationship with the fans.

It can be said that Ronaldo's time at Juventus wasn't the success both parties were hoping not because of the Portuguese himself but rather the ramifications of him arriving to the club. His signing resulted in Juventus having a lot of financial difficulties, which was further emphasized by more bizarre transfer decisions that resulted in a very negative period in the club's history.

This was also the beginning of Ronaldo's decline, with his first season at Juventus arguably being the last time he was at his prime.
Nathan Annan is from South Africa and loves to write, and above all about his favorite sport, football. Nathan's interest in football was sparked late but after watching a few matches in his hometown of Johannesburg during the 2010 South Africa World Cup, he was hooked.