Cristiano Ronaldo will be in peak condition for the World Cup and Portugal can "rest easy" about what he will bring at Qatar 2022, says Selecao legend Luis Figo.

Superstar forward Ronaldo has found himself out of the team at Manchester United in recent weeks, following on from a pre-season of uncertainty.

The 37-year-old reportedly wanted to depart Old Trafford just 12 months after returning in order to find a move to a club playing in the Champions League.

A move failed to materialise, though, and Ronaldo's only start this season under new boss Erik ten Hag came in the humiliating 4-0 defeat at Brentford.

That is partly explained by the fact Ronaldo missed much of United's pre-season due to personal reasons, but the Red Devils have chalked up four straight wins with the legendary forward out of the starting XI.

With a little over two months until Fernando Santos' side begin their World Cup campaign against Ghana, Portugal fans will hope their leading man is afforded more starts.

Real Madrid great Figo is confident he will be in prime form for the tournament.

Speaking at the FPF Football Talks 2022 in Lisbon, Figo said: "I have no doubt about Cristiano [Ronaldo]'s quality, commitment and professionalism. 

"I'm sure he'll be at the World Cup in the best possible [physical] condition. What will those conditions be? I don't know. 

"But without a doubt, given his quality and professionalism, as I said, Portugal can rest easy about what he can give to the Selecao."

Portugal needed to win a play-off against North Macedonia to book their spot in Qatar but, in a tournament considered wide open by most pundits, the Selecao will fancy their chances of a deep run.

Figo is also sure they can be a force to be reckoned with in Qatar.

"I think Portugal has one of the best teams in the world. But a Euro and a World Cup depend on many factors. Not only on individual and collective quality," he added.

"I hope that Portugal, after a complicated qualification phase, can show its value, that we can achieve our goals, that is to say, reach the final and win this World Cup."

During his playing days, Figo was involved in one of the most controversial transfers in football history when he swapped Barcelona for Clasico rivals Real Madrid for a then world-record fee back in July 2000.

The story of the move has been retold in the Netflix documentary 'The Figo Affair: The Transfer that Changed Football'.

Asked how he felt about the situation having relived it via the show, Figo said: "I lived it so I don't feel any different. 

"Of course, those who didn't live it, who have spoken and criticised, will have a different feeling. But my feeling is the same as 22 years ago."

The draw for the group stages of the 2022-23 Champions League has thrown up major talking points with Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland set for reunions with their former employers.

Lewandowski's Barcelona will face Bayern Munich, while Haaland returns to Borussia Dortmund now donning the shirt of Manchester City.

Having scored 344 goals for Bayern, with whom he won eight consecutive Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 2019-20, the German giants will be fearful of the threat Lewandowski will pose.

Players coming toe-to-toe with their former clubs is nothing new and Stats Perform has selected five memorable occasions from years gone by.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Having left Manchester United in 2009, Cristiano Ronaldo faced off against the Red Devils for the first time in the first knockout round of the 2012-13 Champions League, scoring in both legs.

Five years later, in the 2018-19 group stages of the competition, Ronaldo this time played against United for Juventus, scoring in a 2-1 defeat in Turin.

During his illustrious career, Ronaldo also went up against Sporting CP, the club where he started his career, scoring three goals in four matches.

Luis Figo

Luis Figo's controversial move from Barcelona to Real Madrid in 2000 is now the focus of a Netflix documentary and, to this day, still stands as one of the most shocking transfers in football history.

Two years later, in November 2002, Figo returned to Camp Nou for the second time and received a fiery reception from the home supporters, who threw numerous objects towards the Portuguese star. Most notable was a pig's head.

Figo spent five years in the Spanish capital, winning LaLiga twice and the Champions League in 2001-02.

Robin van Persie 

Signed as a youngster by Arsenal, Robin van Persie grew to become one of the greatest players in the Arsene Wenger era and captained the side from 2011 after Cesc Fabregas' move to Barcelona.

A move to Manchester United came just a year later, however, with the Dutch striker going on to score home and away against the Gunners, celebrating at Old Trafford after abuse from the visiting fans.

The biggest pain he inflicted on Arsenal came in the Premier League. United won the title following his signing, with the Arsenal squad giving them a guard of honour at the end of the campaign.

James Rodriguez

Signed by Real Madrid after starring at the 2014 World Cup, the Colombian's stint in the Spanish capital was not as he would have hoped. He became an expendable asset, which saw him sent to Bayern Munich for two years in 2017.

In the semi-finals of the 2017-18 Champions League, the loanee faced his parent club and scored in a 2-2 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu, with there being no clause preventing him from featuring in the game.

Bayern lost 4-3 on aggregate, however, with Madrid going on to win the title that season.

Robert Lewandowski

Facing familiar opposition is nothing new for Lewandowski, who had to do it time and time again during his spell with Bayern Munich.

The Poland international was devastating against Borussia Dortmund for Bayern, scoring 27 goals in 26 games. That included two hat-tricks in the Bundesliga, one of which came in a 6-0 demolition in the 2017-18 season.

 

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.

Paris Saint-Germain have once again rocked the world of sport after they confirmed the signing of Lionel Messi.

As bizarre as that may look written down, the deal is complete with the Argentina forward signing a two-year deal following his Barcelona departure.

Barca announced last Thursday that their dire financial situation meant they could not bring their greatest ever player back under LaLiga's salary restrictions after his previous contract expired in June. He had spent his entire career at Camp Nou.

But the Parc des Princes now beckons and he will form probably the most-feared front three in world football alongside Kylian Mbappe and his old friend Neymar.

It's with the Brazilian where Stats Perform starts in this look at a selection of other sporting deals that shocked the world.

 

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. But maybe Messi will be the final piece of the puzzle...

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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