Manchester United hero Cristiano Ronaldo wants to leave the club and seems ready to do anything to make it happen.
Ronaldo wants United to tear up his contract following their failure to qualify for the Champions League.
He didn’t show up for their pre-season tour, albeit for family reasons, and in the one and only friendly match the 37-year-old played in he ended up leaving Old Trafford mid- time.
Ronaldo is an icon for United fans and their patience is well and truly being tested, but will he go further and go on strike?
If he does, Pierre van Hooijdonk might be able to offer some advice. What better time to reminisce about this downright bizarre story after Nottingham Forest returned to the Premier League after 23 years.
It was the nuclear option and the one few people chose, but the Dutch goalscoring machine made that decision in the summer of 1998.
After joining halfway through their 1996/97 Premier League relegation campaign, in a £4million deal from Celtic, his skills came to the fore in the English second tier .
He helped Forest climb back into the top flight with 34 goals – just short of the club record in a single campaign, while partner striker Kevin Campbell scored 23.
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But after reaching the Premier League, Campbell was sold along with key defender and captain Colin Cooper.
The Tricky Trees may have won £7million – back when that was a lot of money – but Van Hooijdonk was furious.
Top players were promised but only Dougie Freedman, Nigel Quashie and Andy Gray – not that one – were signed before the start of September.
Van Hooijdonk is said to have set up the club with a deal for Wim Jonk, but he would end up traveling to Sheffield on Wednesday instead.
And when a buyer could not be found for the dismayed Dutchman, who had competed in his 1998 World Cup, and the nightmarish summer continued.
He later revealed he could have gone to St James’ Park.
“The thing that started all of this was after the World Cup. Newcastle and Ruud Gullit came in with an offer of £7million, which was double what Forest had paid,” Van Hooijdonk said.
“But Bassett told the papers my price was £10m. £10 million! In 1998 it’s like putting a price tag on a bottle of water and asking for £25. Officially it’s for sale but it’s not for sale.
He stayed in the Netherlands hoping to move, but nothing happened.
“The team is not good enough, it is not strong enough to survive,” he said in an interview.
His teammates, however, weren’t happy – to put it mildly.
“He told us we weren’t good enough and the team wasn’t good enough, which is a bit out of order, really. And, to be honest, he wouldn’t be welcome in our locker room, certainly not by me, anyway,” an annoyed Steve Stone said.
“He just killed us,” defender Craig Armstrong told The Athletic. “I told him that. He killed us. Mark Crossley was ready to knock him out.
Meanwhile, manager Dave Bassett was equally unwilling to welcome him with open arms.
“If he thinks we’re going to give him an olive branch, he knows where he can plant it,” he said eloquently.
He eventually returned, not that his teammates cared, in a clash with rivals Derby County.
In mid-November, the Dutchman scored in a 2-2 draw, sending in a Scott Gemmill corner, but those playing ran to the winger, not Van Hooijdonk, in celebration.
His next goals were consolations in defeats as relegation became inevitable, but he would score a winner at Everton and a corking free kick in another 2-2 draw, this time against Liverpool.
Van Hooijdonk also faced next manager Ron Atkinson, although this time the proceedings were a bit more jovial.
“Despite being last in the league, Ron had just appeared in a Carling ad as some sort of ignorant medieval king who had just discovered football,” Van Hooijdonk told the Guardian. “I remember a training session afterwards where I was pissed off about the whole situation and swore out loud.
Ron replied, “If you don’t like it, why don’t you fuck off?” So I did, and as I left the training ground, I yelled, “The only reason they asked you about that beer ad is because you’re the biggest pub manager from the country”.
“Later that afternoon Ron called me at home to come see him in his office. He was smiling and said, ‘I liked your joke. There are still a few games left, you can leave after that. , do your best “.
“We laughed about it. Ron was a people person and I can imagine him doing better with the right group of players. He was funny, warm, even if his tactical approach was the same as that of Dave Bassett. And all the players were pissed off when he found himself in the wrong dugout in his first game in charge.
Forest won their last three Premier League games of the season, but it was too late.
Stone had been sold, along with Gemmill and Armstrong and relegation was confirmed as they finished 11 points behind 17th-placed Southampton.
England ace Stone would later reflect on the incident, admitting he may have come across as a little harsh, but he underlined how disappointed the whole dressing room was.
He said: “Pierre had his own program of what he wanted to do.
“I think he had been with the World Cup squad that summer, he had seen big players there, with big salaries at big clubs and Pierre was at Forest, so he just wanted keep going and go somewhere else and play for a better team.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have been as vocal as I was about Pierre. Maybe it turned out I was the only one saying these things when really, if you were in our locker room, everyone said so.
What does Van Hooijdonk say in hindsight? Well, he’s adamant his teammates weren’t as honest as they might think.
When former central midfielder Andy Johnson reflected on the incident last year, the Dutchman offered his views.
“They were all lucky in 1998, and when I arranged a meeting only Geoff Thomas said he disagreed, everyone else who spoke in recent years said nothing or taken action,” he said on Twitter.
“And why didn’t a story pop up about me from the foreigners who were in the team that year??? Probably not interesting because maybe that’s not what people in England want read,” he added.
Ronaldo hasn’t gone that far yet, but he could cause new Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag a problem or two this season if he doesn’t get his way.
The Premier League is back and talkSPORT has it covered, with games on Friday, Saturday and Monday, starting with Crystal Palace against Arsenal on August 5
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