The Premier League has gotten back underway without one of its greatest soap operas of recent years, with Cristiano Ronaldo departing Manchester United ahead of the World Cup.
Ronaldo forced his way out of United with an astonishing "tell-all" interview with Piers Morgan as the dust settled on the first part of the Premier League season.
The interview saw Ronaldo slam manager Erik Ten Hag, the Manchester United owners, ex-teammates Gary Neville and Wayne Rooney, and those who had criticised him, while he assured viewers that he would be highly in demand from Europe's top clubs.
He was released by United days later and no doubt expected the likes of Real Madrid, PSG, Manchester City, and Bayern Munich to be queuing up to sign Europe's most prestigious free agent.
After his antics with Piers Morgan, and at United in the first half of the season, no one came forward. The veteran Portuguese forward was resigned to joining Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr for an eye watering sum, leaving his career to seemingly die a slow death after his assertion he could continue doing it at the top level.
Reports early this week, however, suggest Ronaldo may have one last chance of Champions League football, if things go his way.
Report: Cristiano Ronaldo could return to Premier League
Spanish publication MARCA reported on Monday that a clause in Ronaldo's contract at Al Nassr could allow him to make a return to the Premier League - but only with Newcastle United.
Eddie Howe's Newcastle team are contending for the top four, after an impressive turn of form inspired by the controversial Saudi ownership at the club.
That same Saudi ownership could be what salvages a shot at European football once again for Cristiano Ronaldo. MARCA's report suggests that Ronaldo will be allowed to leave Al Nassr on loan to join Newcastle - provided the Toon qualify for the Champions League.
Five-time Champions League winner Ronaldo has repeatedly stated his insistence on playing in Europe's elite competition - which made his move to the Middle East all the more perplexing.
.@piersmorgan: "If it was just about money, you'd be in Saudi Arabia earning this king's ransom, but that's not what motivates you. You want to keep at the top."@Cristiano Ronaldo: "Exactly."
That was a month ago. https://t.co/LNAkll6eZJ pic.twitter.com/L4RDb4XXY7
— Ryan Maquiñana (@RMaq28) December 30, 2022
The follow up question which all football fans will now have is clear. Given his recent antics and petulance, and his decreasing ability over the course of the past year - would Eddie Howe and Newcastle United even want Ronaldo, should he become available?
Howe's Newcastle side have been one of the season's success stories so far, charging into the top four with an impressive run of form that has seen them lose only once in the Premier League this season. With their attacking talent of Miguel Almiron and Callum Wilson enjoying fruitful seasons, it is highly possible Cristiano Ronaldo would struggle to break into the Newcastle side, should he make the move to St. James' Park.
With Manchester United, Spurs, and Liverpool hot on their tails, it is not a foregone conclusion that Newcastle will qualify for next season's Champions League. Whether they like it or not, they may have Ronaldo on hand if they manage that feat.