Cristiano Ronaldo exited the World Cup early, but he still managed to take some attention away from the soccer tournament with the news that he has signed for Juventus on a four-year deal for a transfer fee of 112 million euros ($131 million).
Ronaldo leaves Real Madrid for Italy after a hugely successful nine years in Spain, scoring a club-record 450 goals in 438 games, winning four Champions League titles and taking his World Player of the Year trophy haul to five.
But the 33-year-old Portuguese’s value to a club extends far beyond an average of one goal per match played. Forbes has estimated that his social media postings account for nearly $1 billion in value for sponsors, higher than any other player.
“With over 2 billion interactions from fans on social media, it is estimated that each posting from the Portuguese star is valued at $1.6 million for the sponsors, a number that can only be compared with a few international pop stars and celebrities, and thus a difficult one to replace for Real Madrid now that Cristiano Ronaldo is heading to Juventus,” said Elisavet Manoli, a sports marketing expert at the U.K.’s Loughborough University.
Ronaldo will reportedly be paid 120 million euros by Juventus for the duration of his contract. It is not only being referred to as the “deal of the century” in Italy, but it could have wider implications for summer transfer spending among Europe’s top clubs.
For Juventus is also investing in the brand association that Ronaldo will bring with him, as it looks to raise its own global profile.
“We saw Juventus rebranding themselves a few years ago, while pushing for a new internationally-facing commercial strategy,” Manoli said. “One could argue that this star transfer is nothing but another step in the grand scheme of Italian football to gain, once again, the attention of business and fans worldwide.”
With Ronaldo leaving Real Madrid, new head coach Julen Lopetegui has space for a new “galactico,” or superstar, with several players being linked with a move to the Santiago Bernabeu stadium — even before Ronaldo’s departure.
Top of that list is Brazilian forward Neymar. It was only a year ago that he left the Spanish league himself for a world record transfer fee of 222 million euros, joining Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) from Barcelona.
It’s been no secret that Neymar’s preferred destination would be Real Madrid, but facilitating a move directly between the two Spanish giants was almost unthinkable considering their rivalry.
PSG is also under pressure to comply with European football’s governing body UEFA over financial fair play rules, which could also be a factor in deciding Neymar’s future.
Any deal to bring the Brazilian into Lopetegui’s squad would most likely involved a transfer fee somewhere close to a world record, once again.
Another potential name also coming out of Paris is the teenage forward Kylian Mbappe. His stock has been on the rise since a breakthrough season for Monaco in 2016/17 that saw him move to PSG on a two-year loan, supposedly worth more than 160 million euros.
There is still 12 months to run on that deal, but following several standout performances for France at the World Cup in Russia, Real Madrid President Florentino Perez may want to act now.
Chelsea’s Belgian forward Eden Hazard could be a possibility as well. He’s been at the London club for six seasons now, winning five trophies, including two Premier League titles.
There have been links in the past between Hazard and Real Madrid, and with uncertainty around who Chelsea’s manager might be next season, the 27-year-old may consider moving on. A transfer involving Hazard could also prove potentially cheaper than either of the PSG options.
As big as the void Ronaldo leaves behind, it could have a knock on effect at Juventus too, as its current forward players may find themselves behind him in the pecking order.
Argentina's Paulo Dybala scored 22 goals in Serie A last season, but has found his chances limited at international level because of Lionel Messi. He may be forced to move on as well to play regular games.
The soccer transfer merry-go-round will kick into overdrive after the conclusion of the World Cup on Sunday. More than 1.5 billion euros was spent on transfers in the Premier League alone last summer and Ronaldo’s move could be the trigger for many others to follow.