Ronaldo returns to Man Utd: Neymar, Messi, LeBron and other transfers that shocked the world

By Sports Desk August 31, 2021

A whirlwind day last Friday saw Manchester United reach an agreement with Juventus to bring Cristiano Ronaldo back to the club.

The deal was confirmed just hours after it had looked likely the Portugal star would be heading to Premier League champions Manchester City instead.

According to reports, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer encouraged the club to enter the race when it began to seem inevitable Ronaldo would head to the Etihad Stadium. Contact from Bruno Fernandes, Rio Ferdinand and even Alex Ferguson helped persuade Ronaldo that a return to Manchester could mean only one thing.

It all made for a short-lived but extraordinary transfer saga that ended with United re-signing a player who made history with the club between 2003 and 2009, winning three Premier League titles, the Champions League and the first of his five Ballons d'Or.

Here, Stats Perform looks at some other deals that caused a shock in the sporting world...

 

Lionel Messi: Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, 2021

In the most sensational free transfer of all time, PSG again laid down a marker to the football world with the signing of Lionel Messi on a two-year contract. Just as he looked to sign a new Barcelona contract, the club informed him that their dire financial situation meant they could not bring their greatest ever player back under LaLiga's salary restrictions after his previous deal expired in June. A tearful Messi said farewell to the only club he had ever played for before heading to the fanfare of Paris and a reunion with Neymar.

Neymar: Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, 2017

The Brazilian had formed a potent attacking trio with Messi and Luis Suarez at Camp Nou but a move to PSG was inevitable when the French side met his world-record buyout clause of €222million. He has played an important role in their continued dominance of French domestic football but has so far been unable to guide them to Champions League glory. He was reduced to tears by his side's 1-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the 2020 final and then failed to inspire the team in the 2021 semis as Manchester City knocked them out.

LeBron James: Cleveland Cavaliers to Miami Heat, 2010

Basketball icon James announced he would sign with the Miami Heat instead of returning to his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a six-time All-Star, James added to the spectacle of the stunning move by announcing it on a special television broadcast called The Decision. He enjoyed four years in Miami, where he won a pair of NBA titles, before returning to the Cavaliers in 2014. 

Tom Brady: New England Patriots to Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2020

Few people expected Brady to leave the Patriots after 20 years and six Super Bowl victories. Not only did one of the game's greatest ever quarterbacks leave, but he joined one of the least successful franchises in NFL history and instantly guided them to glory, leading the Buccaneers to the franchise's second Lombardi Trophy with a 31-9 triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

Luis Figo: Barcelona to Real Madrid, 2000

Should Messi ever return to Camp Nou as an opposition player it is unlikely he will be on the receiving end of the kind of abuse that greeted Figo. Barca fans threw bottles, lighters and even a pig's head at the Portuguese star when he went back to Camp Nou with Los Blancos in the seasons following his controversial move.

Wayne Gretzky: Edmonton Oilers to Los Angeles Kings, 1988

In 1988, the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings agreed a deal that shook the NHL to its core. The trade left Canada in disbelief, with a member of the country's parliament even proposing the federal government block the trade or buy Gretzky's contract and sell it to another Canadian team. "The Great One" would go on to enjoy eight successful years in Los Angeles before spells with St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers.

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    Mauricio Pochettino challenged Paris Saint-Germain to adapt and find the best tactical balance in the absence of the injured Neymar.

    The Brazil forward has been ruled out for six to eight weeks after sustaining ankle ligament damage against Saint-Etienne last weekend.

    Neymar was carried off during the final stages of Sunday's 3-1 win in Ligue 1, and will not play again in 2021.

    Speaking ahead of PSG's home match against Nice on Wednesday, Pochettino expressed his sympathy for Neymar, who has registered three goals and three assists in 10 league appearances this season.

    Nevertheless, the head coach insists his side must demonstrate their ability to cope during his spell on the sidelines.

    "I'm sad for him because he's someone who loves to play football above all else," Pochettino said.

    "We are not trying to replace Neymar, but to find solutions to have the best tactical balance.

    "We feel that we are facing a challenge that makes us grow as a team and as a staff. 

    "These are problems that arise and to which solutions must be found.

    "I think the principle of the team, of the game is going to be there. 

    "We will continue to develop what we want since the beginning of the year beyond the players who are there on the field."

  • Ballon d'Or: Klopp bemused as his former Dortmund hitman Lewandowski misses out Ballon d'Or: Klopp bemused as his former Dortmund hitman Lewandowski misses out

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    Asked initially whether he was surprised there were six players who ranked higher than Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, Klopp said: "I was surprised to be honest, but it's not in my hands. If you think he should be higher up, then you'll have to convince your colleagues."

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    "And yes, Mo definitely should have been high up."

     

    Lewandowski would also have been a frontrunner in 2020, only for organisers France Football to cancel the awards due to the impact of the COVID-19 enforced break in the football year.

    He managed 57 goals involvements (45 goals, 12 assists) in 2020, which was 10 more than Cristiano Ronaldo (41 goals, 6 assists), who had the second-most in the elite leagues, and 12 ahead of Messi (26 goals, 19 assists).

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    The PSG star has endured something of a slow start to the Ligue 1 season, scoring just once in seven games, but his prior exploits with Barcelona and Argentina were enough to secure another accolade.

    The 34-year-old's performances for Argentina at the Copa America, helping his country to a first major trophy in 28 years, were likely what gave him the edge over Robert Lewandowski.

    Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski, who Messi claimed should have been awarded the cancelled 2020 Ballon d'Or, was once again in the running after breaking Gerd Muller's long-standing record of 40 goals in a single Bundesliga season.

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    "Winning seven Ballons d'Or is an extraordinary achievement. I hope he takes advantage of it and that it's the first day to work on getting the eighth.

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    Ahead of Wednesday's clash with Nice, PSG lead Ligue 1 by 12 points after winning 13 of their opening 15 games, a total surpassed only once at this stage in the competition by PSG themselves in 2018-19 (14/15).

    The league leaders may be without Messi for the clash at Parc des Princes, though, after the former Barcelona forward, along with Leandro Paredes, did not train on Tuesday due to a stomach bug.

    PSG will decide on the fitness of the pair on the morning of the Nice game, while they will definitely be without Neymar, who is expected to be out for six to eight weeks due to an ankle injury sustained against Saint-Etienne.

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