COLUMN – The death of the football superstar

It was widely reported that Cristiano Ronaldo wanted to leave the English football club Manchester United this summer. Manchester United failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League, and the Portuguese superstar wanted to move to a team that could challenge in this prestigious competition he has shined in for more than a decade. The 37-year-old footballer was linked with Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Napoli and Paris Saint-Germain, but they all refused to sign one of the best footballers to ever play the game.

Is it Ronaldo’s age? Or is it his high wage demands? I don’t believe so. Cristiano Ronaldo is in top condition, and the commercial success he can bring to a football club is on another level. But football is changing and has been changing for the last couple of years. Cristiano Ronaldo was the star player in a Real Madrid side that won everything year after year. The team was built around him, but nowadays this doesn’t seem to happen anymore.

Football clubs tend to stick to a manager’s or owner’s philosophy. Football has become much more tactical. I believe manager Pep Guardiola is the one who changed this. His FC Barcelona side of 2008-2012 is known as one of the best teams to ever play the beautiful game. Guardiola has now been managing Manchester City since 2016, and his tactics and vision are more important than any player. There’s no player bigger than his ideas. Almost all big clubs now have a tactical genius as a manager. Liverpool has Jurgen Klopp, Tottenham Hotspurs has Antonio Conte and Bayern Munich has Julian Nagelsmann. Both Chelsea and PSG also made big managerial changes this summer. Chelsea appointed Graham Potter, one of the biggest managerial talents who overperformed with English football club Brighton & Hove Albion for years. But the managerial change of PSG is even more fascinating.

In the summer of 2021, PSG established a team full of some of the biggest superstars in world football. They brought in Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos and Gianluigi Donnarumma among others and added them to the likes of Kylian Mbappé, Neymar and Marquinhos. Last season had to be the year PSG would finally win the Champions League. The trophy they have been striving to win for years. Even though PSG became champions in France that season, they underperformed in the Champions League and the season was a big disaster. The owners realised that you can’t win with a team full of superstars in modern-day football. This summer PSG appointed Christophe Galtier as their new coach, who managed to become champions with the French club LOSC Lille two seasons ago and beat PSG to the title. They’ve now given Galtier the chance to bring success with his tactics.

Football is changing and I don’t know how to feel about it. I’m scared that we will never have another superstar in football. Not a single player for a future generation to idolise.

Text: Rik Tuinstra, final editor:
Photo: © Ekaterina Laut, CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons