If that calculation had seemed fragile, at best, in the first two years of his contract, the coronavirus pandemic shattered it completely. Like most clubs across Europe, Juventus has spent much of the last year trying to establish how, precisely, it can absorb hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Ronaldo has performed on the field — he has scored 101 goals for the club in 134 games domestically, though Juventus has drifted further out of contention for the Champions League, and in May surrendered the Serie A title for the first time in a decade — and he has, without question, helped the club expand its brand off it.
Giorgio Ricci, Juventus’ chief revenue officer, told the Times earlier this year that association with his brand was so potent that it was hard to discern how much of Juventus’ soaring prepandemic revenue was down to its domination of Serie A and how much was down, simply, to having Ronaldo on the team.
In an era of austerity, though, his salary could not be justified. Juventus does not find itself in straits quite as dire as Barcelona, for example, but its attempts to rebuild its squad were hamstrung by its commitment to Ronaldo. It did not, in a sporting sense, want to lose him. In an economic one, though, it had little choice.
For much of the summer, that looked unlikely. Europe’s transfer market, usually so bustling, was unsettlingly quiet. Only three or four teams could even hope to get close to his salary, and none of them seemed especially interested. Ronaldo reported, as expected, for preseason training. He posted a message on Instagram dismissing, moderately unconvincingly, transfer gossip.