Cristiano Ronaldo is reported to have held talks with new Juventus manager Maurizio Sarri over his role in the Old Lady’s side going forward, with Italian media reporting that he is set to be deployed as the Italian’s false nine.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner joined Juventus from Real Madrid last summer, but after being converted into a central striker to much success in his later years under Zinedine Zidane, he has found himself playing on the left of a front three for much of his time in Turin.
He still managed to net an impressive 28 goals in 42 appearances in all competitions, but the general feeling is that the 34-year-old didn’t play to the best of his abilities in his first season in Italy. In an effort to amend that, the incoming Sarri is reported by Football Italia to be keen on moving him into a more central role on a permanent basis.
The speculation has led to outlets such as La Stampa, Corriere della Sera and Gazzetta dello Sport nicknaming him ‘CR9’ in reference to his potential new role within the team, although it is unclear whether this is just a motif, or whether his squad number will be changed from the iconic number seven to reflect his status as their main striker.
Ronaldo wore the number nine shirt in his first season at Real Madrid, but has worn seven ever since inheriting it from Raul, who left the club in 2010. The number nine is vacant at present, but may be given back to Gonzalo Higuain, who Sarri is set to reinstall into the first team picture after a season out on loan.
How Juventus will look tactically with Ronaldo and Higuain both used in central roles remains to be seen, especially with Mario Mandzukic also making a case for himself as a starter, while 19-year-old Moise Kean continues to impress.
We could see a departure from Sarri’s favoured 4-3-3 as a result, with a potential return to the 4-3-1-2 he used at Empoli and initially at Napoli on the cards.