Twelve years after first leaving Old Trafford, Cristiano Ronaldo is back at Manchester United, having agreed to a sensational return.
It is a move that has been talked about again and again in the time since his departure to Real Madrid in 2009, but without ever really coming close to happening. There was speculation in 2013 and again in 2018, but finally in 2021, United and Ronaldo are preparing for a spectacular reunion.
In the span of 48 hours, and with less than a week remaining in the summer transfer window, Ronaldo told Juventus of his desire to leave the club and, appeared set to join Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. Then, a flurry of text messages and phone calls led to Ronaldo choosing his former club over their most immediate rivals.
After six years at United from 2003-2009 — 292 appearances, 118 goals, three Premier League titles and a Champions League triumph in 2008 — Ronaldo made no secret of his desire to join Real Madrid for a then-world record fee of £80 million. But he has remained a fan favourite at United and was celebrated as a returning hero on visits back to Manchester with Real Madrid and Juventus. He even refused to celebrate when his goal for Real Madrid at Old Trafford helped Real Madrid knock United out of the Champions League in 2013 — Sir Alex Ferguson’s last European tie before his retirement.
Ronaldo still calls Ferguson his « football father » and the pair have stayed in regular contact over the years, with Ferguson greeting him after Portugal won the European Championships in 2016. Ferguson played his part in ensuring the five-time Ballon d’Or winner signed for United after deciding to leave Juventus this summer, just when it looked like Ronaldo could do the unthinkable and join rivals Manchester City. It also had long been the ambition of executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward to bring him back.
How Manchester United did it
United are not hiding the fact that they didn’t begin the summer transfer window with plans to sign Ronaldo. ESPN reported in June, before the start of the European Championships, that Ronaldo’s representatives (led by his agent, Jorge Mendes) were gauging interest from some of Europe’s top clubs, including United, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, if — and, at that point, it was a big « if » — he left Juventus.
The answer from United at the time was a polite no, partly because of a belief that he would decide to see out the final year of his contract in Turin, and partly because of the numbers involved — especially for a player who, while at the peak of his fitness, turns 37 in February — but also because their priorities in the transfer market were elsewhere.
Solskjaer predicted Cristiano Ronaldo return in 2019Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suggested Cristiano Ronaldo would return when talking to children in April 2019.
Mendes got a similar answer from Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Manchester City. Then came Harry Kane’s announcement, made on Wednesday, that he would not be moving to City this summer and instead would remain at Tottenham for at least another year. With no prospect of signing their top target, City began looking into other options and before long, Mendes was back on the phone.
The response this time was more positive than it had been in June and with Ronaldo finally making a decision to leave Juventus, even missing a training session last week, City began looking at how to make a deal work. There was a reluctance to meet the financial demands of both Juventus and Ronaldo — he earned €31m net and bonuses per year at Juventus, who also asked for around €28m in a transfer fee to avoid a capital loss on the deal that brought Ronaldo from Real Madrid in 2018 — and Pep Guardiola also had reservations about how he would fit in on and off the pitch.
Dan Thomas is joined by Craig Burley, Shaka Hislop and others to bring you the latest highlights and debate the biggest storylines. Stream on ESPN+ (U.S. only).
Still, on Thursday, City had agreed to keep talking to Mendes, but by then, things were already changing. As the prospect of Ronaldo joining City became more and more real and United fans began expressing their outrage, his former United teammates Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra, Portugal teammate Bruno Fernandes, and Ferguson all got involved. For their part, Ferdinand and Ferguson told him simply « you cannot sign for City. » Phone calls were made and WhatsApp messages sent to Ronaldo — Evra later posted a portion of his conversation on Twitter — while Woodward began talking to Mendes.
On Thursday night, Mendes received a proposal from United. On Friday morning, conversations with Juventus began and United assured the Italian club they were prepared to pay a fee, something City had so far resisted. There were conversations about players possibly moving in the other direction but eventually a transfer fee of €15 million, with another €8m in add-ons, was agreed.
When United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s weekly news conference began at 1:15 p.m. UK time on Friday, he was already confident Ronaldo was coming back. Each question about Ronaldo was batted away by Solskjaer until, right at the end, he said pointedly « he knows what we feel about him and if he is going to move, he knows we are here. »
The cat was out of the bag. City sources insist they pulled out well before Guardiola began his own news conference at 1:30 p.m. UK time, but official word didn’t filter through until later in the afternoon. City remain unhappy with Mendes’ role in the saga with some believing he used interest from the Etihad to force United into acting.
Sources close to Ronaldo admit he considered a move to City, but once United revealed their hand, his mind was made up and that he had even taken a small pay cut to make it happen.
Sources have also told ESPN that the pitch made to Ronaldo, done in part by former teammate and now technical director Darren Fletcher, was about « completing unfinished business at Old Trafford and writing a new chapter rather than trying to relive the past. » And at 4:50 p.m. UK on Friday, the official announcement came through to cap off a remarkable 24 hours. (Bruno later joked he was an « agent » once the news was public.)
Dan Thomas is joined by Craig Burley, Shaka Hislop and others to bring you the latest highlights and debate the biggest storylines. Stream on ESPN+ (U.S. only).
« Manchester United is delighted to confirm that the club has reached an agreement with Juventus for the transfer of Cristiano Ronaldo, subject to agreement of personal terms, visa and medical, » it read. « Everyone at the club looks forward to welcoming Cristiano back to Manchester. » United’s announcement post on Instagram is the most liked post by a sports team ever, in any sport.
Even when, to outsiders at least, City seemed destined to sign Ronaldo, those within Old Trafford knew that the player’s deep-rooted affection for United would give them a chance of persuading him to choose red rather than blue. Ronaldo has maintained contact with many from his time at United, principally Ferdinand and Evra, but he also has retained relationships with members of staff behind the scenes. And one staffer has told ESPN of a moment in Turin, following United’s 2-1 Champions League win against Juventus in November 2018, when his ongoing respect for United became clear.
« We had just beaten Juve with two late goals and Jose Mourinho, the manager at the time, went onto the pitch and started to goad the Juventus fans by cupping his ear to the noise, » the United source said. « A lot of the players were pissed off with [Mourinho] because it seemed like he was making the win about him rather than the team and Cristiano was furious with him, too.
« He walked past and said, ‘[Mourinho] doesn’t have the class to manage Manchester United. »’
« We’ve always known that Ronaldo loved his time at Old Trafford, but I think what people outside the club don’t appreciate is how much he still cares, and always has, about what happens here. »
After missing on Ronaldo and Kane, what now for Man City?Mark Ogden and Craig Burley discuss Manchester City’s lack of a true No. 9 after failing to sign Harry Kane and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Since assuming his role as executive vice-chairman in 2013, following the retirement of chief executive David Gill, Woodward has made it his business to get close to the game’s so-called « super-agents. »
Gill, perhaps influenced by Ferguson’s deep-rooted disdain for player representatives, always kept them at arm’s length, treating many with suspicion and trusting only those he had grown to know and respect during a decade in the job. Woodward had no such inhibitions, and he worked hard to cultivate relationships with the likes of Mino Raiola — adviser of Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Erling Haaland, among others — and Mendes, Ronaldo’s long-standing representative.
On one occasion, while enjoying drinks with journalists before United’s Champions League tie against Olympiakos in Athens in February 2014, Woodward’s phone rang, with the screen clearly showing the caller’s name. Rather than quickly diverting the call or moving away to take it privately, Woodward instead made sure everyone knew who was calling him — « Ha! It’s Jorge Mendes, » he said.
‘I just sit and hope’: A Sierra Leonean mother’s refugee story
Standing in the drizzle outside the Tunis office of the International Organization for Migration, Saffiatu Mansaray is staring down at her swollen stomach.
On the other side of the alley, her husband works alongside other undocumented people, building a plastic-covered wooden shelter for refugees whose stay in Tunis is continuing with no end in sight.
The couple have come to Tunisia from Sierra Leone and are hoping to get to Europe. But the longer they remain stuck here, the more anxious Saffiatu, 32, is growing about her pregnancy.
“I am seven months gone,” she says, one hand resting protectively on her belly. “I have been here since February.”
Before embarking on a journey she knew could be lethal, she left two children in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, with an aunt. The memory is still fresh in her mind.
Saffiatu and her husband have found other difficulties in Tunisia. They were living in the port city of Sfax until a couple of months ago when the police came for them. She’s not sure when that was exactly.
“The police catch us and take us to the desert,” she says. “They will come again.”
That was the second time Saffiatu found herself on the Tunisian-Algerian border after crossing from Sierra Leone, which she left with her husband in November.
This time, she, her husband and the others who were herded onto a bus by the Tunisian security services in Sfax found themselves alone and vulnerable to gangs of “bad boys” she says operate in the forest near Tunisia’s northern border with Algeria. These gangs prey on refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, stealing their phones and any money or valuables they have with them.
“We walked back by foot [from the Algerian border]. Some people die. Some people get sick,” she says with a passive shrug. She describes how the group was later intercepted on their journey by the police before being returned to the border. “I got sick,” she says. “I had pains all over, under my stomach. This was three weeks ago. It was cold.”
Saffiatu’s parents still live in Freetown. Her father, who is 70, is too frail to work in construction any longer. Saffiatu says she would like to send money back, but with no work available to her or her husband in Tunis and a baby on the way, there is none to spare. “I sit over there and beg. Every day I beg. I will tell them, ‘Mon ami, ca va?’ [‘How are you, my friend?’] Some people give me one dinar, some two dinars [33 or 65 United States cents]. So for the day, I survive.”
On the other side of the alley, a rough shelter is beginning to take shape. The wood has been salvaged from construction sites and repurposed pallets and is being wrapped in thick black plastic that those living in the cold alley have pooled their meagre resources to buy.
“If God grants me the wish, I will continue to Europe. There is no work for any of us here,” Saffiatu says. “Up until now, I see no doctor, no nurse, nothing. I just sit and hope.”
This article is the first of a five-part series of portraits of refugees from different countries, with diverse backgrounds, bound by shared fears and hopes as they enter 2024.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA
How Nigerian Embassy In Chad Donates Relief Materials To Baga Sola Refugee Camp To Mark 63rd Independence Anniversary
The Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the Republic of Chad, has donated relief materials worth millions of naira to Dar Salam Refugee Camp Baga-Sola, Republic of Chad, to mark the occasion of Nigeria’s 63rd Independence Anniversary.
The Ambassador of Nigeria to the Republic of Chad, Ambassador Lami Sauda Remawa-Ahmed and the Nigerian delegation, visited Dar Salam refugee camp Baga-Sola to make the donations on Thursday 5th October 2023.
According to the Ambassador, the Nigerian government will continue to work with and support the government of Chad in all its efforts towards hosting refugees displaced by insecurity in the Lake Chad, including providing relief materials, making them self-reliant and restoring their dignity by ensuring their return home.
“I am most delighted to have this opportunity to visit the Dar Salam Refugee Camp in Baga-Sola and address you on the severe humanitarian challenge we are collectively facing, with respect to the displacement of our people living in the Lake Chad Region, due to insurgency and widespread terrorist activities in the region. The refugee issue is a global challenge requiring a multipronged approach to resolve.
“We come to you in the spirit of Nigeria’s 63rd Independence anniversary, with a message of hope. We, the Nigerian Embassy in N’djamena, Chad are reaching out to you this day as part of the activities marking Nigeria’s liberation from colonial rule some 63 years ago on the 1st of October 1960,” she said.
“Let me leave you with some words of encouragement from the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, His Excellency President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on the occasion of Nigeria’s 63rd Independence. The President acknowledges the hardships many Nigerians face and has reaffirmed his concerns for the plight of the poor masses. Mr. President stated, and I quote, “To endure, our home must be constructed on safe and pleasant ground. This new administration has instituted some reforms which may be painful, but is what greatness and the future require as we must now carry the costs of reaching a future Nigeria where the abundance and fruits of the nation are fairly shared among all.” He reiterated his vow to Nigerians, to “serve the people with all conscientiousness as one who will not erect our national home on a foundation of mud. A Nigeria where hunger, poverty and hardship are pushed into the shadows of an ever fading past”. Ambassador Remawa-Ahmed conveyed President Tinubu’s reaffirmation of according the highest priority to the safety and security of Nigerians, and his acknowledgment and commendation of the sacrifices of the military forces.
“The Nigerian Government is working tirelessly in collaboration with the Republic of Chad, other neighboring countries, UNHCR, CNARR and other regional and national agencies, to improve your quality of life and facilitate your resettlement back home.
“Today, we come with a little token to assist in addressing some of your basic needs, which include food items and essential supplies. It is hoped that these relief materials will provide you with some immediate succor while all hands remain on deck to reach a lasting solution to the challenge at hand.”
The Ambassador commended the government of Chad for accommodating a large number of refugees of different nationalities within the Chadian territory.
She said: “Chad, is currently hosting about 1.1 million forcibly displaced persons in its territory. This act shows the Chadian Government’s magnanimity in its policy of accepting and catering for refugees from neighboring countries despite the huge financial, logistic and social strain this large number of refugees pose to the Country.”
Amongst the refugees accommodated in Chad, are about 14,000 Nigerians displaced from their local communities due to insecurity in the Northeastern part of the country. These Nigerian refugees and a host of others from different neighbouring countries have over the years, been accommodated and catered for by the Chadian government and people.”
“The Federal Republic of Nigeria most sincerely appreciates the Government of Chad and our Chadian brothers and sisters, for their good neighborliness and unwavering support to Nigeria as we work hand in hand to address this menace of insurgency and insecurity, as well as the resulting humanitarian challenge of displaced persons.”
Remawa-Ahmed extolled the efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Chadian National Commission for the Reception and Reintegration of Refugees and Returnees (CNARR). Both organizations are dedicated to saving lives, protecting the rights of the defenseless, and building a better future for those forced to flee their homes due to conflict and persecution.
She stressed that the efforts of the organizations in Chad to support refugees fleeing violence in neighboring countries are remarkable.
“We appreciate your efforts and reiterate the willingness of the Nigerian government to work with you to ameliorate the suffering of these refugees and find a lasting solution to their plight with a view to their relocation and resettlement to their communities of origin.”
Speaking further at the outreach, the Ambassador acknowledged the efforts of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) under the leadership of the Executive Secretary, Ambassador Mamman Nuhu, and the MNJTF, for their tireless efforts in addressing the security and socio-economic challenges of the region. The LCBC, which comprises 6 countries: Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic and Libya, is mandated to manage the waters of the Lake Chad and other transboundary water resources, in a sustainable and equitable way, as well as promote regional integration and safeguarding peace and security in the Lake Chad Basin.
“Every good team is only as good as its leadership. Suffice to say that today’s humanitarian outreach is possible because of the overwhelming support of the Force Commander Multi-National Joint Task Force – Major General Ibrahim Sallau Ali. I want to extend my unreserved appreciation and gratitude for your admirable leadership of the MNJTF and your generosity and support in making this event possible. Your support has been key in enabling us provide some succor to our fellow brothers and sisters most in need of our assistance.”
The soft-spoken Ambassador also appreciated the donors of the relief materials.
“I wish to recognize and appreciate our donors who contributed generously to providing these relief materials today. Marketing Concepts International (MCI) – Nigeria, Homes and Gardens – Nigeria, the Defense section and my beloved officers and staff of the Embassy of Nigeria in N’Djamena, Chad, my personal assistant, family members and friends” she concluded.
Reacting to the relief materials, several Nigerians in the Dar es Salam Refugee Camp, praised the Nigerian delegation and government for the honour of the visit, the humanitarian assistance and the message of hope, while pleading to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for more effort to return them to their homes in Nigeria.
MNJTF – Force Commander, Major General Ali, commended the Ambassador and her staff for the impactful initiative.
“We are very happy with her for this gesture because it is also going to assist us in our operations in trying to ensure that we bring an end to terrorism and insurgency in the Lake Chad region. The initiative may not solve all their problems, but it will certainly show our displaced brothers and sisters that the authorities in Nigeria are very concerned about them. It will also renew their hope, as Her Excellency has promised to take their message back home to Nigeria for sustained and lasting solutions to terrorism, insurgency and the Refugee crisis.”
Nigerians Hail Traditional Ruler Over Empowerment In Chad
His Royal Majesty Eze Prince Nnamdi Uhuaba has been commended for his humanitarian exercise among Nigerians in the Republic of Chad.
As a Nigerian, he has promoted peace and co-existence beyond his domains in the neighboring Republic of Chad.
Prince Nnamdi Uhuaba, who hails from Abia state, was chosen by the members of the Igbo Community meeting and crowned as the Eze Igbo Gburu Gburu in Chad and Eze Aha-Mba 1 of the Igbo Community in Chad, by the Sultan of N’Djamena Chad, His Majesty Muhamad Muhamad Kachallah Kasser, who is an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Speaking in the press, Chief Collins Onuoha, the spokesperson of the Igbo Community in Chad, expressed his appreciation for the humane actions of the traditional ruler. He stated that the ruler’s efforts have brought unity among the Nigerians in his community, Chadians, and other immigrants residing in the country.
According to Onuoha, HRM has been a great help to Nigerians living in Chad. He has formed cordial relationships with the Chadian authorities to ensure that Nigerians are not harassed. As a result, Nigerians are able to work and conduct their businesses without any hindrance. His installation as the ruler has been widely praised by Nigerians residing in the country.
“He’s a person who cares about the happiness of everyone around him irrespective of their background. He responds to issues that matter and is loved by his community, especially the Chadians. The government has commended him for his empowering gestures and he was crowned by the Sultan to the joy of everyone in Chad. Mention his name to any Hausa or Yoruba person in the market, and they will tell you more about him.”
Usman Malik, a Nigerian business merchant in Chad, believes he deserves recognition from the Nigerian government for his representation of Nigerians as traditional ruler.
“He’s greatly admired for his non-tribalistic approach and efforts towards peace and stability. He’s also known for his philanthropic acts in providing aid and putting smiles on people’s faces.”
Part of his humanitarians gestures were during the embattled COVID-19 that took millions of lives and the recent flood that ravage lives and properties.