Ronaldo Wanted To Buy An MLS Club But Decided It Wasn’t Worth It

After his legendary career, Brazilian striker Ronaldo wanted to buy a soccer team. The two-time World Cup winner eventually settled on LaLiga, where he spent six total seasons. Turns out, O Fenômeno initially wanted to buy an MLS club but decided it wasn’t worth it.

Ronaldo, who scored more than 400 career goals playing for iconic teams like Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Brazil, is now the owner and president of Real Valladolid. He became the majority shareholder in 2018 and now owns 82 percent of the team. Though Real Valladolid was relegated in 2021 and now plays in the Segunda División, the 45-year-old brings an added prestige to the organization, which has been a bit of a yo-yo club for the last 20 years.  

You just wonder what might have been had he bought an MLS team instead.

After retiring, Ronaldo in 2014 became a minority owner of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the now-twice-defunct NASL. The club (2016) and league (2017) dissolved soon after he bought in, and Ronaldo began inquiring about other ownership opportunities.

Speaking on the Flow podcast on Thursday, Ronaldo said he spoke with the MLS president (presumably Mark Abbott) about buying a team. However, the Brazilian was turned off by the cost.

“I went to New York and I had a meeting with the MLS president and he presented his ideas — ‘you can win all you want but if you don’t have €70m for the franchise, you go nowhere,’” Ronaldo said (translations via ESPN). “That made me reject that project.”

Looking back, $79.12 million doesn’t seem like too bad a deal for an MLS club. Although David Beckham got a steal when he worked out a clause to be able to buy a club for $25 million (Inter Miami, which began play in 2020), Charlotte FC, which will play its first season in 2022, came with a reported expansion fee of $325 million

Still, it was more than Ronaldo was willing to pay. So he went to London to study sports management and marketing. After the 2018 World Cup, Ronaldo again looked into buying a club, initially in the EFL Championship, before deciding even that was too expensive at $79.41 million.

“I looked a lot, in the (English) Championship but everything was too expensive,” Ronaldo said on the podcast. “The Premier League is a complete success worldwide and so is the Championship. But you had to have £60m, so I then looked in Portugal and Spain, where the prices were more affordable.”

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Eventually, after Ronaldo had almost given up, the prospect of buying into Real Valladolid for $33.94 million arose.

“When I was no longer thinking about that, I heard there was an opportunity at Valladolid,” Ronaldo said. “I negotiated for a week and ended up paying €30m.”

The initial purchase gave Ronaldo 51 percent of the club’s shares and he took over as team president. 

You can’t blame Ronaldo for taking the cheaper option. A LaLiga club for half the price of an MLS team? Yeah, I’d probably make the same choice. 

But it feels like a missed opportunity for MLS to not have one of the greatest strikers of all time as a part of the league. Few players were as fun to watch in their prime as O Fenômeno, who could burn you with his incredible dribbling, scorching pace and clinical finishing. 

I can think of about 25 MLS teams that would be more interesting with Ronaldo as owner. Alas, the league is ridiculously expensive to buy into these days. Maybe Ronaldo can buy an NWSL club instead; the league could use some added investment.

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