FM23: Will Cristiano Ronaldo set world alight or toil towards retirement? The Athletic finds out

As 2022 approaches, Cristiano Ronaldo has the rare experience of going to the World Cup without a club, available to players who have one of the game’s greats in their squad for the second half of the season. Want to add.

The 37-year-old had hinted he wanted to join the Champions League but signed a £177 million ($214 million)-a-year deal for Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nasr on Friday.

Ronaldo’s performances in the first half of the season for Manchester United and at the World Cup for Portugal show that he is a player who is unable to reach his previous heights. So, we thought it would be an interesting experiment to place him at eight different clubs in Football Manager 2023 and see how he performs in the rest of the campaign. We made sure he joined each in January to reflect how he would fit into the new team as a mid-season acquisition.

Unfortunately, the Saudi Pro League is not an option in this game, so this exercise was done to gauge what Al-Nasr can expect from their big-money recruits in general terms, rather than Let him try to figure out how he will proceed. Especially Saudi Arabia.

We picked some teams that looked completely outrageous realistic options and sat back as the 196-cap, 118-goal Portugal international produced a series of mixed results in the FM23…

The need for a reliable option in front of Graham Potter is well documented. Armando Broja is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is another in the final stages of his career at 33 and Kai Havertz’s form, when played as a No.9, has been inconsistent. Stayed.

Enter Ronaldo.

In our FM23 simulation, Chelsea were sixth at the start of January, three points off the top four places. A title challenge looked out of reach, but securing a place in next season’s Champions League didn’t, which gives us an essential subplot.

Chelsea managed to finish in the top four, but Ronaldo was unaffected. He made 16 substitute appearances, only 10 of which came in the Premier League, not managing a single start or goal during his six-month stay at Stamford Bridge.

The club reached two major finals, winning the FA Cup and losing to Liverpool in the Champions League showpiece, but in both cases, Ronaldo was an unused substitute. He offered little under Potter, finishing the season without a goal involvement.

FM23 Ronaldo at Chelsea

FM23 Chelsea with Ronaldo

Before joining Manchester United for the first time in 2003, Ronaldo was said to be close to a move to Arsenal, with the north London club retaining the number 9 shirt for him. Arsenal’s current number 9, Gabriel Jesus, picked up an injury while playing for Brazil at the recent World Cup that could keep him out for several months.

To simulate real-life situations, we made sure that Jesus had a knee injury from the start of the rescue that would keep him out until April. This meant Arsenal’s league position was likely to be shaken by injury before Ronaldo joined, but it was important to get a better idea of ​​how the latter would perform.

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Before his arrival, Arsenal were in fifth place. They ended the season in sixth place without a trophy and in the quarter-finals of the Europa League against… Manchester United. Ronaldo scored seven goals in 26 matches. For context, Eddie Nketiah made 48 appearances – 40 of which came from the bench – and netted just eight times.

Paris Saint Germain

At the same club as Lionel Messi, Ronaldo looks like a disaster in waiting. Not because he will be asked to play alongside a fellow modern great, but because at PSG he will have to displace Kylian Mbappe just to make his starting XI.

PSG will likely win the French title even if Ronaldo joins them, but if he can help them get over the hump in the Champions League after recent defeats in the final and semi-finals, this might be a hypothetical move. Understandable.

To no one’s surprise, the Parisian giants were top of Ligue 1 at the start of January, already six points clear.

By the time the season came to a close, PSG had won the league, but only just—a last-day victory helped them move above Monaco—while in Europe, it was another case of close but not quite. Ronaldo scored an extra-time winner against Liverpool in the semi-finals, but then PSG lost 3–0 to Manchester City in the final.

The Portuguese proved a useful addition with five goals in 19 games (17 of those coming from the bench) but, ultimately, PSG’s wait to become European champions continued.

How did Ronaldo and Messi do as teammates? Not great. Ronaldo never assisted Messi’s goal, and Messi never assisted Ronaldo. In fact, there wasn’t a single game in which both greats scored goals.

FM23 Ronaldo at PSG

FM23 PSG with Ronaldo

Sporting Lisbon

In the summer of 2003, a teenage Ronaldo played in Sporting Lisbon’s friendly against Manchester United. A week later, he was a United player.

When we gave him a chance to return to FM23, he became their undisputed starter and scored six times in 17 league appearances, but failed to challenge for the Sporting title. They were third when they arrived and finished fourth, while also being kicked out of the Europa League by Ronaldo’s previous employers.

With the 2024 European Championship less than 18 months away, it would be logical to assume that Ronaldo has an eye on being part of Portugal’s squad, even though he will be almost 40 years old by then. To be in that conversation, he’ll need to play regularly, especially after 21-year-old Goncalo Ramos displaced him in the knockout stages of the 2022 World Cup and promptly scored a hat-trick against Switzerland.

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This FM23 experience suggests a return to Sporting could be one of his better options, as he would likely be playing regularly at the highest level and still competing in European competitions for his boyhood club.

FM23 Ronaldo at Sporting

FM23 Sporting with Ronaldo

The MLS team, co-owned by David Beckham and managed by Phil Neville, is confident of signing Messi in real life. Whether that move ever materializes remains to be seen in the wake of its World Cup victory less than two weeks ago, but a flagship transfer appears to be out of the question for the Florida outfit.

In MLS, 14 of the 29 clubs qualify for the end-of-season playoffs that decide the champions, and Ronaldo’s arrival helped Miami achieve that goal in FM23. But once they got there, they failed to make any meaningful push.

Critics will point to the fact that Ronaldo didn’t score in his biggest game of the season, a 1-0 loss to the New England Revolution in the quarter-finals, while the faithful will highlight that Miami won the FA Cup. American version of won.

A return of 18 goals in 42 appearances was respectable but nothing more for the player who holds the record for the most goals in Champions League history.

Overall, Ronaldo’s move to Miami at FM23 proved solid but not spectacular.

FM23 Ronaldo at Inter Miami

Ronaldo in Miami fm23

Despite being firmly in the hunt for Champions League football this season, Eddie Howe’s side are targeting long-term additions that will increase the club’s value over the next few seasons. Up front, the priority is to sign a versatile forward.

All of the above suggests that they have little interest in signing Ronaldo in real life. But the idea of ​​adding the star power he would bring to a club with ambitions to reach world-class levels was too exciting an experience to pass up, so here we are.

Newcastle were sixth in the league at the start of January, and went one position worse towards the end of the season. Ronaldo finished with 17 Premier League starts and four goals and, most importantly, Newcastle ended the season with the trophy, their first major domestic silverware since 1955, as they Defeated Liverpool in the FA Cup final.

With an average rating of 6.95, Ronaldo makes a decent switch to the right side of the attack. He wasn’t a liability by any means but he didn’t do much to advance his current abilities.


Ladies and gentlemen, we have now entered the territory of sheer provocation.

Wrexham is an entertaining story, a club with Hollywood actor owners looking to climb back up from non-league by playing in the Championship in the 1980s. So what if he chose to join the North Wales Club (convenient for a short drive from Cheshire!) in FM23?

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The conclusion may seem obvious, but development in EFL did not come easily. Wrexham finished second in the National League and, with only one club automatically promoted, had to beat Astley 1-0 in the play-off final to seal the deal, with Ronaldo scoring the decisive goal.

Ronaldo was also not often used in a central attacking position, with FM23’s algorithms preferring to play Paul Mullen in the middle instead, with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner out to accommodate a striker. who has spent most of his career. In League Two, the fourth tier of the English game.

A return of 13 goals in 18 appearances was productive but, given the level Wrexham are currently playing at and the level they are playing at, bettering Mullin’s league goals tally for the entire season (14). Seemed attainable, and remained low.

FM23 Ronaldo at Wrexham

With Wrexham Ronaldo FM23


A return to Italy with Lazio saw ex-Juventus star Ronaldo enjoy his most successful run at any major team in all our simulations. He proved to be a prolific mid-season recruit from the Serie A side, scoring 11 times in 24 appearances in all competitions.

Lazio were fifth when he joined and fifth at the end of the season, but the conditions Ronaldo would want from a real-life club were met there. He started often, managed to provide a respectable number of goals and went on a deep run in Europe, albeit in the second-tier Europa League rather than his big brother.

Some of our other experiences have shown he could struggle in a highly competitive side after leaving United, but his six-month stay in Rome suggests he could still be a high-value addition in the right environment. Is.


In our eight experiments, Ronaldo scored 194 goals in all competitions and conceded just 66 goals, 31 of which came when he was placed in MLS and non-league.

At the big clubs, he often occupied the role of super sub… and often didn’t provide much of a spark. For clubs with lower profiles, he started quite a few games, but he also had to add talent already on the books, and thus, widen the line rather than giving it the keys to lead more centrally. given.

His spell at Lazio proved fruitful, but beyond that, he often struggled to carve out a starting role elsewhere, and when he did, he didn’t provide the kind of impact that fans have come to expect from his greats. One of the players can expect. far off.

Ronaldo’s profile will dictate that he will probably start more often than most clubs, but if FM23 is anything to go by, that doesn’t seem to reward Al-Nasser’s confidence in his ability as a starter. will give.

(Photo: Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images)


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