Manchester United hero Cristiano Ronaldo wants to leave the club and seems like he’ll do anything to make it happen.
Ronaldo wants United to rip up his contract following their failure to qualify for the Champions League.
He failed to turn up to for their pre-season tour, albeit for family reasons, and in the one and only friendly the 37-year-old played he ended up leaving Old Trafford at half-time.
Ronaldo is an icon to United fans and their patience is being well and truly tested, but will he take it a step 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 following Nottingham Forest’s return to the Premier League after 23 years.
It’s the nuclear option and one that not many have taken but the Dutch goal machine made that decision in the summer of 1998.
After joining mid-way through their 1996/97 Premier League relegation campaign, in a £4million deal from Celtic, his skills came to the forefront in the English second tier.
He helped Forest to promotion back to the top flight with 34 goals – just shy of a club-record tally in a single campaign, while striker partner Kevin Campbell hit 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 earned themselves £7million – back when it was a lot of money – but Van Hooijdonk was fuming.
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 reportedly set the club up with a deal for Wim Jonk but he would end up heading to Sheffield Wednesday instead.
And when a buyer could not be found for the dismayed Dutchman, who had been in their 1998 World Cup, and the nightmare summer continued.
He revealed later that he could have headed to St James’ Park.
“The thing that started all that was after the World Cup. Newcastle and Ruud Gullit came in with a £7m bid, twice what Forest had paid,” Van Hooijdonk said.
“But Bassett told the papers my price was £10m. £10m! In 1998, that’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 back in Netherlands hoping to push through a move away but nothing cropped up.
“The squad is not good enough, it’s not strong enough to survive,” he claimed in an interview.
His teammates, though, weren’t happy – and that’s an understatement.
“He’s called us a few things saying we’re not good enough and the squad is not good enough, which is a little bit out of order, really. And, to be honest, he wouldn’t be welcomed back in our dressing room, certainly not by me, anyway,” said an annoyed Steve Stone.
“Him going 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 as unwilling to welcome him back with open arms.
“If he thinks we’re going to offer him an olive branch, he knows where he can stick it,” he eloquently put it.
He eventually did return, not that his teammates cared, in a clash with rivals Derby County.
In mid-November the Dutchman scored in a 2-2 draw, flicking home a Scott Gemmill corner, but those playing ran to the winger, not Van Hooijdonk, to celebrate.
His next goals were consolations in defeats as relegation became an inevitability, but he would net a winner away at Everton and a corking free-kick in another 2-2 draw, this time against Liverpool.
Van Hooijdonk also clashed with next manager Ron Atkinson, although this time proceedings were a little more jovial.
“Despite being bottom of the league, Ron had just appeared in a Carling advert as some sort of clueless medieval king who had just discovered football,” Van Hooijdonk told the Guardian. “I remember one training session afterwards where I was pissed off with the whole situation and I cursed loudly.
Ron replied: ‘If you don’t like it, why don’t you fuck off?’ So I did, and as I walked off the training pitch I shouted: ‘The only reason they asked you on that beer ad is because you are the biggest pub manager in the country’.
“Later that afternoon, Ron called me at home to come and see him in his office. He was smiling and said: ‘I liked your joke. A couple more games are left, you can leave after that, just give your best’.
“We laughed it off. 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 Dave Bassett’s. And all the players were pissing themselves when he got into the wrong dugout in his first game in charge.”
Forest did win their last three games of the season in the Premier League but it was all too late.
Stone had been sold, along with Gemmill, and Armstrong and relegation was confirmed as they finished 11 points behind 17th place Southampton.
England ace Stone would later reflect on the incident, admitting he may have seemed a touch harsh, but he emphasised how much the whole dressing room was disappointed.
He said: “Pierre had his own agenda of what he wanted to do.
“I think he’d been with the World Cup squad that summer, he’d seen some big players threre, on big wages at big clubs and Pierre was at Forest so he just wanted to get on with it 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 came across that I was the only one saying these things when really, if you were in our dressing room, everyone was saying it.”
What does Van Hooijdonk have to say looking back? Well, he’s adamant his teammates weren’t as honest as they might feel they were.
When ex-central midfielder Andy Johnson looked back on the incident last year, the Dutchman gave his view.
“They all had the chance in 1998, and when I arranged a meeting only Geoff Thomas said he disagreed with it, all the others who are talking in recent years didn’t say a thing or took actions,” he said on Twitter.
“And why didn’t appear one story about me from the foreigners who were part of the squad in that year??? Probably not interesting cause that’s maybe not what the people in England want to read,” he added.
Ronaldo hasn’t quite gone that far yet, but he may cause new Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag one or two problems 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, beginning with Crystal Palace vs Arsenal on 5 August
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