Cristiano Ronaldo’s stunning return to Manchester United was rubberstamped on Deadline Day morning and the Portuguese megastar turned up the romance dial by saluting Sir Alex Ferguson.
“Everyone who knows me knows about my never-ending love for Manchester United,” he wrote on Instagram. “I’m back where I belong! PS Sir Alex, this one is for you…”
Ronaldo, who scored 118 goals in 292 games for United between 2003 and 2009, has signed a two-year deal with the option of a further deal for an initial £12.9m, the whiff of nostalgia too strong for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to resist, even if his midfield appeared the priority.
This is not the Ronaldo who was embarrassing people at the highest level when he was last there. He’s not going to get the ball out wide, do four stepovers, cut inside and score. That’s not going to happen – otherwise Usain Bolt would still be running the 100m! But put the ball in the box and he’ll get goals.
Ronaldo mania has swept along even Roy Keane but fellow Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp reckons the pressure has ramped up again on the United boss to deliver.
“It’s amazing, so good for the Premier League, so good for Manchester United. But the other side of it is that he is 36 and you’re thinking, ‘How does Ole fit him in?’. They now have five players who can play in that frontline. Ronaldo, at his age, can only play as a central striker. So where does Cavani fit in? Where does Marcus Rashford fit in?
“Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has got such a big job to keep everyone happy and that brings tremendous pressure. Now, not having won anything at Manchester United as manager, he has to win something. For Ole, as excited as he is, trying to keep everyone happy will bring a lot of sleepless nights.”
Sleepless nights perhaps, too, for CR7: will he get that shirt?
Club officials have now turned their focus to getting special dispensation for Ronaldo to take the No 7 jersey from Edinson Cavani in time for his second coming against Newcastle…
“Did we expect anything more from the window that kept on giving?” quipped Sky Sports News’ Dharmesh Sheth as an eye-catching story broke.
Antoine Griezmann’s return to Atletico Madrid from Barcelona was one of the shocks of the day, an initial loan deal with an obligation to buy confirmed in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Barca paid the Frenchman’s £107m buyout clause two years ago but his time at the Nou Camp has been an awkward one, the player who thrived centrally for Diego Simeone often toiling out wide for a club increasingly in turmoil.
“It just highlights the financial predicament Barcelona found themselves in,” Sheth said. “Lionel Messi had to go because they couldn’t afford his wages. Griezmann was one of their highest-paid players in this season and any season.
“They expected to have Messi, Griezmann and Depay in attack. Now they look like having Braithwaite and De Jong.”
Sky Sports News presenter and Newcastle fan Pete Graves was stumped to hear that Barca had turned to Sevilla’s Luuk de Jong.
“That’s more incredible than Messi and Ronaldo for me! If any Barca fans are watching, don’t watch clips from his Newcastle loan spell!”
Chelsea’s formidable-looking squad just got even stronger.
As Atleti entered talks to re-sign Griezmann, they also sanctioned the departure of Saul Niguez to Stamford Bridge on a loan deal with an option to buy.
Thomas Tuchel wanted another central midfield option and 26-year-old Saul provides versatility; box-to-box attributes and the ability to support attacks as much as providing a defensive screen.
“They’re going to go deep in the Champions League, the Premier League; you want as many top-quality players as you can get your hands on with the pace and intensity of the game nowadays,” said Paul Merson.
Real Madrid had an eye-watering offer rebuffed for Kylian Mbappe – but have the consolation of being able to bag him on a free next summer.
Ronaldo and Lionel Messi got their mega moves in a window where star power has trumped systems or sense, but the French forward will have to wait to seal his dream Bernabeu move.
“I’ve been told Real Madrid will sign Mbappe on a pre-contract agreement in January for nothing,” Sky Sports News’ Kaveh Solhekol reported after revealing the deal was off.
“PSG could have had more than €220m today but have not co-operated. Having landed Messi, I don’t think they wanted anything to spoil their summer. But Real will be coming back – with nothing – to get their man.”
“Everything is relative. For the Qataris to say no to 220m is like me losing 10 grand in a casino one night,” Peterborough owner & chairman Darragh MacAnthony said bluntly but pertinently on The Transfer Show.
“It sounds horrible because of the world we live in and everything else; it is an obscene amount of money, but for the Qataris that’s the relativity involved. They’ll keep him [Mbappe]. If they win the Champions League, it will be good for the brand.”
Over in the Premier League, it was deja-vu for Dan James.
“We had a couple of jokes in the boardroom: ‘Is it really done this time?!'” he told Sky Sports News after joining Leeds at the second attempt.
The Wales international had travelled from south Wales to Yorkshire back in January 2019, his broad smile captured by documentary cameras as he held a Leeds shirt aloft, only for Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins to pull the plug on the deal at the last moment.
James was instead Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first permanent signing at Old Trafford but playing time had already looked limited before Ronaldo’s shock arrival and his belated Elland Road switch has landed Manchester United a cool £10m profit on a player who netted nine goals in 74 appearances.
“I think it’s a great move for him,” Sky Sports’ Jamie Redknapp said. “There are about five or six players ahead of him at Manchester United and working with Bielsa is going to be brilliant for him. He needs to get his confidence back, make his name again.”
Spotlight on Arteta after Arsenal head spending
Arsenal left it late to round off their biggest window of spending, signing Bologna defender Takehire Tomiyasu for close to £20m.
While Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United spent big on individual deals for Jack Grealish, Romelu Lukaku and Jadon Sancho respectively, the Gunners topped the overall spending charts this summer, splashing out on young talent in Ben White (£50m), Martin Odegaard (£34m), Aaron Ramsdale (£30m), Takehiro Tomiyasu (£19.8m), Albert Sambi Lokonga (£15m) and Nuno Tavares (£8m).
The club’s outlay represents a significant show of support for Mikel Arteta as he navigates a squad rebuild.
But the Gunners boss has admitted he, and everyone at the club, must “look in the mirror” after a horror start that leaves them bottom of the fledgling Premier League table.
A pivotal run of fixtures looms – starting with Norwich at home after the international break.
Renewals over reinforcements for Liverpool
The only news out of Anfield on Deadline Day was of contract renewals – this time for captain Jordan Henderson, as well as Rhys Williams, who then was allowed to join Swansea on loan.
While their rivals have spent big on the likes of Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho and Romelu Lukaku, the Reds have only brought in defender Ibrahima Konate, choosing instead to focus on longer-term security by tying down a string of key players.
Jamie Carragher shrugged off concerns about a lack of signings, telling Sky Sports News: “Liverpool have had a model since FSG have come in and it has worked spectacularly.
“What Liverpool do not do is make stupid decisions and do silly things in the transfer market that maybe we did when I was a player. Everyone was screaming at Liverpool that they had to do something with a centre-back in January, but the one they wanted was not there.
“They waited this summer to get the one they wanted and when you see what Chelsea are doing in bringing in Lukaku, which is a fantastic signing, but Liverpool would not pay that money for a 28-year-old striker, they would not have gone in for Harry Kane with those figures for a 28-year-old, they would not have bought a Ronaldo-type at 36.
“They do not do that, they have a set way of doing things and it has proved very successful, so I think it is really difficult to criticise what Michael Edwards and his team and FSG have done since they have been at the club really. We do not have the revenues of other clubs and this year, the revenue will be going on new contracts and I’m sure next season there will be maybe money then spent in the transfer market.”
Berahino back and a ‘blockbuster’ signing
Yes, Saido Berahino had still been playing – at Zulte Waregem and on loan at Charleroi in Belgium – but a forgotten man is hoping a trusted mentor can help him resurrect his career in England.
The 28-year-old last played here for Stoke in 2019 but has been reunited at Sheffield Wednesday with former West Brom boss Darren Moore, who declared him as having “unfinished business”.
Over on Tyneside, Newcastle confirmed the arrival of Mexico U23 international Santiago Munoz, surely prompting plenty of Geordies to splutter: ‘Is this a wind-up?’.
The 2005 film Goal! tracked the rags-to-riches story of near-namesake Santiago Munez, a one-time waiter who is tracked by a Tyneside scout and eventually earns a money-spinning move to Real Madrid.
Munoz, whom the club say will join their academy set-up, was the only Newcastle arrival on Deadline Day and while the youngster is highly regarded, the club’s overall inactivity – talks over a loan deal for Leicester’s Hamza Choudhury broke down – is, for the Toon Army, no joke.
The ones that got away
While Mbappe must lift himself to play alongside Messi and Neymar, back in the Premier League, Ainsley Maitland-Niles must knuckle down for now under Mikel Arteta at Arsenal.
The beleaguered Gunners had clear-the-air talks with their disgruntled player after a rejected Everton loan prompted his social media cry: “All I want to do is go where I’m wanted and where I’m going to play.”
“It was getting quite messy,” Sky Sports News‘ Kaveh Solhekol admitted. “Arsenal were quite disappointed with the action that Maitland-Niles took on social media, but now all parties want to move forward. He will be hoping after these talks, there will more opportunities for him because he’s got a contract that runs out in 2023.”
Another player who had wanted first-team football, Callum Hudson-Odoi, had hoped to land a move to Borussia Dortmund but has been tasked with fighting for his place at Chelsea after the club were unwilling to sanction a loan move, while Tanguy Ndombele remains at Tottenham for now after a move away failed to materialise.
Wolves had hoped to give Renato Sanches a second shot in the Premier League – remember that ill-fated Swansea spell under Paul Clement? – but failed to agree a loan deal with Lille but crucially kept hold of Adama Traore despite longstanding Tottenham interest. Spurs’ offers fell far short of Wolves’ £50m valuation and Wolves now hope to revive contract talks with Traore.