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Could Cristiano Ronaldo retire at the end of the World Cup?

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As much as many may not want to admit it, the footballing world is desperate to see what Cristiano Ronaldo is going to do next.

It was announced by Manchester United earlier this week that Ronaldo’s contract had been terminated by mutual consent with half of the season left. The move comes after his explosive TalkTV interview where, among other things, he said he does not respect manager Erik ten Hag.

That means that he is now a free agent at the age of 37. He will be 38 in February, meaning he is certainly in the territory where footballers tend to retire.

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Ronaldo may be without a club, but he is very much occupied for the next month. Despite his lack of game time and poor form for Manchester United, he is expected to lead the line for Portugal at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

There is no doubt that this is his last chance to win the World Cup with his national team and he will do everything in his power to achieve that life-long goal. It would be an incredible way to end a career that, regardless of the recent controversy, has seen him win 30 major club honours across four countries, as well as both Euro 2016 and the 2018/19 Nations League with Portugal.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Portugal will face Ghana at the World Cup on Thursday / Mohamed Farag/GettyImages

Many feel that Portugal coach Fernando Santos should be building his squad around younger stars such as Joao Felix, Bruno Fernandes, Rafael Leao and Bernardo Silva. That does not seem to be the plan though and it is likely that Ronaldo will be the starting striker.

Considering Ronaldo’s age, declining ability, and now damaged reputation when it comes to being part of a dressing room, the idea of him calling time on his career after the 2022 World Cup has been floated.

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We saw Zinedine Zidane retire that way in 2006, although he had to retire as a World Cup final loser who had been sent off for headbutting an opponent in the chest. The Frenchman had also previously announced his intention to hang up his boots after the tournament several months earlier.

There is certainly plenty of logic to the idea as this could be the highest level Ronaldo will get the chance to play at from here on in. He wants to join a Champions League team, but there is little suggestion so far that any Champions League-level club wants him.

The chances of him not returning after the tournament certainly grow if Portugal were to win the whole thing, but they are not viewed as one of the favourites as Santos has often struggled to get the best out of the abundance of attacking talent that he has to choose from.

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Portugal are in a group with Ghana, Uruguay and South Korea / PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/GettyImages

Assuming that Portugal do not win the World Cup this winter, very little of what Ronaldo has said in recent interviews has suggested that he is starting to lose faith in himself. His whole career has been built around having the perfect diet and physique to play at the highest level into his 40s.

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Unfortunately for him, that may not be possible anymore. But it would take a serious mentality shift for Ronaldo to throw the towel in on his club career at the age of 37, especially considering that just last season, he scored 24 goals for Manchester United in all competitions.

Ronaldo will absolutely feel that he can still do a job somewhere, but United had stopped being the place where he can perform to his best, whatever that may be now.

There are two clubs that currently seem to be the most plausible destinations for Ronaldo. They are Chelsea, who can immediately offer Champions League football, and Sporting CP, where he started his career and could be back in the Champions League next season following recent elimination.

Assuming he does not retire, it seems likely that Ronaldo will be turning out for one of these two clubs, or a team in the Middle East or MLS.

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Mikel Arteta provides injury updates on two key Arsenal stars

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Mikel Arteta lifted the lid on the condition of both Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Jesus following Arsenal’s friendly victory over Lyon.

The Gunners breezed to a 3-0 win against the Ligue 1 side out in the United Arab Emirates, while taking part in the Dubai Super Cup as a part of their preparations for the impending return of club football.

Naturally, Arsenal have plenty of first-team regulars away still representing their country at the World Cup or on leave following a recent elimination, but are still stepping up their efforts with one eye on football’s return, with the aim being to continue an incredible first half of the season.

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Unfortunately, Brazil forward Jesus saw his World Cup campaign come to an end as a result of a knee injury, which the club have since confirmed he has had surgery to correct. After the win, Arteta responded ‘no’ when asked if there was a timescale for the 25-year-old’s return.

“We know that he needed some intervention in the knee and we have to take day by day, week by week and see where that takes us,” Arteta said.

When asked if injury to Jesus would influence the Gunners’ transfer plans, he responded: “What it affects is who we are as a team because he gives us so much.

“What we can do after that, when we know the timescale better and when we can have him back, we will look at the options and try to make the right decisions.”

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Smith Rowe, meanwhile, has been missing for the majority of the 2022/23 campaign, but has travelled with the squad to Dubai for their mid-season camp. Arteta said: “With Emile, he has returned to training and he’s in that process after we rehab, after a period where he had some real discomfort.

“So we are giving him time – he’s getting closer and closer. So hopefully in the next few weeks, we’ll be able to see him.”

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Vilde Boe Risa stakes claim for more regular Man Utd chances

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Manchester United midfielder Vilde Boe Risa has been crying out for a proper chance this season. With competition for places so stiff in a much-improved squad, the Norway international has been limited to just 52 minutes across the club’s eight WSL games so far.

In United’s last five league games, Boe Risa has been afforded just nine minutes.

Ella Toone recently spoke about the high standards in training and the usual starters being pushed on by the rest to keep performing or risk losing their place.

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That has been the problem for Boe Risa this season. She has shown in the past that she can cut it in the WSL – nominated for last December’s PFA fans’ player of the month award – and there was hope that she might get more opportunities following the September departure of Jackie Groenen.

But displacing Toone in a ‘number’ 10 role or either Katie Zelem or Hayley Ladd slightly deeper has been close to impossible due to the form of all three. Toone in particular has really stepped it up in recent weeks, while Zelem has been remarkably consistent and in the form of her life, and Ladd’s physical attributes and midfield engine are not really matched by anyone else.

That was what made Wednesday night’s game against Everton in the Continental Cup so important for Boe Risa to get an opportunity and stake her claim for more meaningful minutes going forward.

She absolutely took it, getting forward from midfield to score in the first minute and then doubling her tally less than 20 minutes later as United raced into a 3-0 lead.

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“It’s nothing I didn’t already know,” United boss Marc Skinner said to 90min afterwards.

“I have never ever doubted that Vilde has unbelievable qualities. All keep asking is to keep evolving her game – the physical side and duelling, something we’re working on together,” he added, reiterating a previous explanation as to why she doesn’t often start.

“Her quality has always been there – I’ll never doubt that with her. Her attitude is brilliant, she’s a great person, lots and lots of qualities. I can’t speak any more highly of her, it’s just we’re a competitive team and we’re showing that in our games. Sometimes you have to be patient.”

Speaking to club media on her performance, Boe Risa herself said: “It’s nice to score, I always want to score and I scored two, so really happy about that. I always enjoy playing and to get a 90 is really nice so hopefully get more minutes as we go.”

Ultimately for Boe Risa, a lack of playing time at club level is threatening to hurt her international career with Norway. She was dropped from the squad earlier this season – although later recalled due to injury withdrawals – by head coach Hege Riise, who suggested to the player at the time she might be better suited joining a club that will offer her more game time.

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Only a few months out from the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, Boe Risa also seemed to suggest during the last international break in comments to Norwegian media that leaving United is not completely out of the question if her situation doesn’t change.

Boe Risa is out of contract at the end of this season, although there is an option to extend her deal by another year until 2024, and the ideal for both parties would be to stay together. Longer-term, that will of course hinge on the player getting chances, but at least with a standout performance this week she has now pushed herself right into contention for more as the season progresses.

For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter!





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When do Liverpool play first after the World Cup?

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It has not been the season that many Liverpool fans expected so far but there is still plenty of cause for optimism when the play resumes after the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

Jurgen Klopp’s side expected to be challenging for the Premier League title from the outset but that is not how things have panned out and now a Champions League spot has to be the overall aim for the Reds.

They are still in the Champions League and the Carabao Cup though, meaning the chance for silverware is high later in the campaign. Some of their key players have also not been in World Cup action and have had a genuine break.

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Here is a look at the fixtures that await Liverpool after the World Cup.

As Liverpool managed to get through the previous round of the Carabao Cup by beating Derby County on penalties, their first game will be in that tournament rather than the Premier League.

They may wish that wasn’t the case, as they have been drawn away against Manchester City who are serial Carabao Cup winners. That game takes place on December 22 at 20:00 GMT.

When Premier League action returns, Liverpool will try to get back on track by beating Aston Villa away from home on Boxing Day at 17:30 GMT. That is followed up by a match at home to Leicester City on December 30, meaning there is a great chance for Liverpool to get six points on the board straight away.

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An away game against Brentford is on January 2, before the FA Cup third round match against Wolves at Anfield on January 7.

The month is rounded out with an intriguing trip to Brighton and Hove Albion on January 14 and then a game at home to Chelsea on January 21. Overall, it is a set of fixtures Klopp and his side will feel fairly confident about as beyond the Carabao Cup tie, there is no fixture against another major side until the Chelsea match.

Harry Kane, Thiago Alcantara

Liverpool recently got the better of Tottenham Hotspur / Mike Hewitt/GettyImages

Something has not been quite right for Liverpool this season. They had a bad season in 2020/21, but that could largely be explained away by the mass of injuries they had to contend with.

This season though, many key players have all been available at the same time and results have still been below par. Liverpool were sixth when the break for the World Cup came and they are four points behind fifth-placed Manchester United having played the same number of games.

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A top four finish is certainly possible and given the likes of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Andy Robertson have not been at the World Cup some of their key players may be fresher than other sides’.



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