Year in review: from Cristiano Ronaldo to Jose Mourinho, change was the name of the sporting game in 2018

  • A huge number of sporting superstars changed addresses this year, willingly or unwillingly
PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 December, 2018, 3:03pm
UPDATED : Monday, 31 December, 2018, 3:03pm

Earlier this year, I moved 10,241 kilometres, across the world’s largest ocean for work – from Vancouver to Hong Kong.

Change is hard, scary, nerve-racking and also great.

The sporting world had a definitive sense of ushering in new beginnings in 2018 as well. It will go down as the year when everyone and their dog seemed to set up a new mailing address.

Cristiano Ronaldo exited Real Madrid, heading to Juventus in a splashy 100 million (US$113.8 million) transfer. Was Ronaldo unhappy at Real, or did Juventus present a fresh, new opportunity? The Portuguese star’s move seemed professionally motivated, a superstar surrounded by stars looking for a less crowded skyline.

Juventus on the other hand were looking to take their Uefa Champions League game to the next level, and also bask in the glow of the “Ronaldo effect”. The move seems to have paid off for both, although it remains to be seen if this is a long-term love affair, or simply a flash in the pan between the striker and the Italian side.

In the National Basketball Association, the league’s universe shifted on its axis as LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Los Angeles Lakers. James’ move was similar to Ronaldo’s, one rooted in various forms of personal and professional incentives.

James could have gone to a more championship-ready team, but seems eager to give the City of Angels a serious go. The Lakers have performed well after a slow start, now comfortably in a play-off position, but they still remain a long shot to usurp the seemingly everlasting and invincible Golden State Warriors.

LeBron James and LA Lakers finally off the mark with a blowout of the Phoenix Suns

Wayne Rooney called it quits on his European football career, heading to DC United of Major League Soccer. Rooney, 32, was reaching the tail end of his talent and fitness spectrum in England, and looking to re-energise his game, and it appears to have worked.

England’s all-time leading goal scorer signed a three-year deal, and his first season saw the team make the play-offs, along with Rooney netting an MVP nomination. The MLS could be called the European fountain of youth for the number of careers its prolonged at this point.

Wayne Rooney leads red hot DC United into championship round of US league

Even the National Hockey League saw a blockbuster trade over its summer holidays. Ottawa Senators’ captain and Norris trophy winner for the best defenceman Erik Karlsson headed to the San Jose Sharks, where he joined fellow Norris winner Brent Burns and a team primed for a deep play-off run.

Karlsson was a class act in the Canadian capital, frequently taking the high road to Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, who basically ran the Swede out of town to fans’ dismay.

Cristiano Ronaldo tells Lionel Messi: ‘Be like me, challenge yourself, come to Italy’

Squeezing into the list is Jose Mourinho, the now former Manchester United manager. It was a move everyone predicted, and it seemed to be a long time coming, but still managed to bring a sense of shock when it finally happened.

Even here in Hong Kong we had our own football coach Gary White leave the helm after only three months for a gig in Japan. Change, it seems, is infectious, like that cold that always seems to make its way through the office.

Next Man Utd manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer leads interim options as club look to move on from Jose Mourinho era

Change can have numerous motivating factors behind it. I was looking for a fresh start in a new country, and got a healthy dose of both.

All these figures, mostly willingly, were looking for the same thing: a new address, a new place to call home, and a renewed sense of vigour that only change can bring. To quote my favourite author – the ubiquitous, ever wise “anonymous”: “One day or day one. You decide.”

It appears, this year, most chose the latter.