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Will Cristiano Ronaldo be eligible to play Champions League football for a club he joins?

He hasn’t kicked a ball at the World Cup just yet with Portugal taking on Ghana on Thursday afternoon, but Cristiano Ronaldo is dominating the headlines due to his club situation.

Manchester United announced earlier this week that Ronaldo’s contract is being terminated by mutual consent following the Talk TV interview in which he was highly critical of the club and the current coach, Erik ten Hag.

Ronaldo tried to leave the club in the summer after the Red Devils failed to qualify for the Champions League, but he and his agent Jorge Mendes could not find a club willing to pay his wages that also matched his ambition.

The ambition in question appears to still be to play in the Champions League in the second half of this season or next year.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo has linked up with the Portugal squad / Mohamed Farag/GettyImages

Ronaldo does not need to be concerned about joining a club and then finding out that he is not allowed to represent them in the Champions League.

Because Manchester United were competing in the Europa League group stage, there is nothing to stop him from playing in the Champions League knockout stages. Since 2018, in fact, the cup-tied rule was removed which means that if United were in the Champions League group stage, he would still be allowed to now play for another team in the round of 16.

The move by UEFA came after pressure from big clubs such as Barcelona who had just signed Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool in January and wanted to use him in the latter stages.

Chelsea

It’s not likely that there will be any serious movement until after the 2022 Qatar World Cup as Ronaldo is engaged with his national team, but as things stand, Chelsea seems like the most plausible destination.

Chelsea owner Todd Boehly wanted Ronaldo in the summer but Thomas Tuchel didn’t want the move to happen. Graham Potter almost certainly won’t want the move either, but with Chelsea struggling for form and goals, Boehly could take the decision out of Potter’s hands. A last-16 tie against Borussia Dortmund would await CR7.

Bayern Munich

The Bundesliga champions were linked with Ronaldo in the summer too but they have always appeared too sensible with their transfers to entertain this move.

Their lack of a conventional striker and the fact they have to face Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16 could make them take a six-month punt on Ronaldo, but don’t hold your breath.

AC Milan

In so many ways, this move makes no sense, but the links just don’t seem to be going away. Jorge Mendes is convinced there is a deal to be done with the Rossoneri who lack attacking depth right now and have work to do to defend their Serie A title.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo suffered defeat in his final Manchester United game / Matthew Ashton – AMA/GettyImages

The deal looked more likely when Ronaldo was still attached to Manchester United as Mendes had plans for an elaborate swap deal involving Rafael Leao, but that is no longer on the cards.

Napoli

The Serie A leaders have been linked with Ronaldo throughout the season but there is little evidence to suggest they will make it happen. They’re playing extremely well, have Victor Osimhen, Giovanni Simeone and Giacomo Raspadori in great form, and are not blessed financially.

With Chelsea being the best but far from a straightforward option in the Champions League this season, it seems that Ronaldo may need to wait until next season if football will let him.

Sporting CP dropped into the Europa League knockout round play-off and they seem like a more likely destination for Ronaldo. It is where he began, and there is probably a deal to be done with his wages. The Piers Morgan interview seemed to be far too honest, and he did say that it has never been about money.

They sit fourth in the Primeira Liga right now which means it would be a risk. They are far from guaranteed a place in the Champions League next season, but it may be Ronaldo’s only route in.

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