English Premier League
Transfer Deadline Day: 5 questions around Ronaldo, Pulisic, USMNT
English Premier League

Transfer Deadline Day: 5 questions around Ronaldo, Pulisic, USMNT

Updated Sep. 1, 2022 8:00 p.m. ET

By Doug McIntyre
FOX Sports Soccer Writer

The summer transfer window slammed shut across most of Europe on Thursday.

Here are five big questions following a wild two months. 

How will Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United coexist?


Sometimes the biggest deals are the ones that don't get done; Cristiano Ronaldo's failed exit from Old Trafford falls into this category.

Ronaldo forced his way out of Juventus on Deadline Day last year, and the Italian club wasn't at all happy that his request to move came so late. United found themselves in the exact same position this August when, with the new season just around the corner, CR7 again asked his employer to let him leave.

This time, Ronaldo didn't get his way. United would have sold him had the right offer come in, to be sure, even if new manager Erik ten Hag insisted that he wanted the superstar forward to stay for the 2022-23 campaign. But there were no takers for the third leading scorer in the Premier League last season, at least not of the caliber Ronaldo required; at 37, he was desperate to play in the Champions League, which the Red Devils didn't qualify for this season.

So what now? Including Thursday's 1-0 win over Leicester City, Ronaldo has started just one of United's five Prem games so far. He played just the final four minutes of last week's stunning 2-1 upset of rival Liverpool. Will such a famous competitor — one considered among the greatest players ever — really be able to swallow his pride and accept a supporting role for a rebuilding team? That's hard to imagine.

Drama has followed Ronaldo his entire career, and one gets the sense that there will be more to come before it's over. How the next few months play out will be fascinating to watch.

Is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang enough to reboot Chelsea?

It's not that sending Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner back to their former clubs this summer was wrong. Although the Blues acquired those two forwards over the last two summers for a shade under $200 million combined, neither worked out in West London. Cutting their losses made sense.

The problem was not replacing them. Chelsea added Manchester City live wire Raheem Sterling and the winger has been their best player, with three goals and an assist so far. He's not a striker, though. And with another natural midfielder in Kai Havertz shoehorned into the center forward's role during the first month of the new campaign, the Blues have struggled mightily to score, managing just six in five games.

Now, they have Aubameyang.

It took until after the 11 p.m. local time cutoff to get the deal over the line, but Blues manager Thomas Tuchel finally landed a proven Premier League goal-scorer in the former Arsenal man, who Tuchel previously coached at Borussia Dortmund.

He still wasn't Chelsea's first choice; that was Erling Haaland, who opted for Man City instead. Legitimate questions remain about the 33-year-old's age and ability to fit into Tuchel's system, and he won't even be available for several weeks after suffering a broken jaw during a robbery at his home in Spain earlier this week.

But for a team in desperate need of goals, his last-minute arrival remains a coup. 

Can Christian Pulisic work his way back into the Blues' mix?

Like Ronaldo, U.S. men's national team headliner Christian Pulisic wanted to switch clubs this window. Pulisic helped Chelsea win the Champions League in 2021, scoring a vital goal against Real Madrid in the semis. But he's been used exclusively as a substitute by Tuchel this season, his fourth with the club. 

It's understandable that Pulisic would want playing time with his first World Cup looming in November. He told his bosses as much. But any increase in minutes will have to come with Chelsea now. The club refused to part with the American this summer after missing out on Brazil winger Antony, who signed with Man Utd.

The good news for Pulisic is that Chelsea begins its six-game Champions League group stage slate on Sept. 6, which should offer more opportunities to play. USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter isn't overly concerned that the 23-year-old will continue to sit. 

"I'm a guy that bets on Christian just because I've seen it before," Berhalter told FOX Sports and other reporters in New York on Wednesday. "He gets on the field and proves everybody wrong, and he ends up playing. I tend to believe that's going to happen."

Have Barcelona done enough to rejoin Europe's elite?

Barça was always going to struggle after Lionel Messi's seismic departure last summer. This year, they're expected to compete for trophies again under new boss/club icon Xavi, who is entering his first full season at the helm.

Yet the same sort of gross financial negligence that prevented Barcelona from extending Messi's contract and forced the greatest player of all time out of the only club he'd ever represented against his wishes threatens to torpedo 2022-23, too.

Sure, Barça landed the most sought-after striker in the sport not named Haaland or Kylian Mbappe in Polish goal machine Robert Lewandowski. But they were also forced to mortgage their future just to register Lewandowski, former Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen and their other summer signings. They offloaded Aubameyang and fullback Sergiño Dest to raise funds. Meanwhile, Jordi Alba and Frenkie de Jong refused to be pushed out, leaving Marcos Alonso in limbo into September.

As much as Lewandowski's scoring (he already has four goals in three games) could help paper over the cracks, things are still clearly a mess at Camp Nou based on this summer's evidence.

Will USMNT's deadline deals work out? 

The moves made by U.S. World Cup hopefuls early this window — Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams to Leeds, Jordan Pefok to Union Berlin — have been wildly successful to this point. Berhalter is hoping the same holds true for the two Americans who changed teams just before Silly Season ended: Dest and Ricardo Pepi.

Struggling since his January arrival in the German Bundesliga, Augsburg sent Pepi on loan to Dutch side Groningen on Wednesday. On Thursday, Barça loaned Dest to AC Milan.

The former remains a long shot to make the Americans' World Cup roster after not scoring for club or country in more than 10 months; at 19, he'll be a candidate for 2026. 

The latter, however, is a projected starter in Qatar. He desperately needs games between now and November. He should get them in Italy.

"To go from Barcelona to AC Milan's not bad, right?," Berhalter said. "Serie A is a competitive league. You have to defend really well in Serie A, and it's going to help him."

One of the leading soccer journalists in North America, Doug McIntyre has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.


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