Sporting CP are continuing to explore ways to take Cristiano Ronaldo back to the club 19 years after he departed for Manchester United, sources have told 90min.

Ronaldo and his representatives told United earlier this summer that he wanted to leave the club to continue playing in the Champions League – something that is not on offer at United this season – and the Portugal legend is keen to move on before the transfer window closes.

The 37-year-old, who was again used as a second half substitute in the 1-0 win over Southampton on Saturday, has just over 10 months remaining on the two-year deal he signed when joining from Juventus, but is keen to continue playing at the highest level and extend his goalscoring record in European football’s premier club competition.

United continue to publicly insist that Ronaldo is ‘not for sale’ – something Erik ten Hag has suggested is the case on numerous occasions – but 90min understands that the Red Devils’ new Dutch manager would sanction an exit if a buyer could be found.

Chelsea, Paris Saint Germain, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, Marseille and Napoli are among a number of sides who have shown varying degrees of interest in Ronaldo, whose famed super agent Jorge Mendes is actively looking for ways to facilitate an Old Trafford exit.

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A return to Sporting is always something that has been on Ronaldo’s agenda, but it appears a move back to the club where he began his career could come sooner than expected.

90min has learned that although a deal will not be easy to put together, given Ronaldo’s extensive United wage packet, Sporting are continuing to explore ways to find an agreement – 90min revealed their initial interest in mid-August – and they may even consider offering Ronaldo a stake in the club – something that is not prohibited by current regulations.

Indeed, leading sports lawyer and partner at Leathes Prior, Dan Chapman, told 90min: “There are no regulations which I am aware of which would prevent a football player also being a shareholder in the club he is contracted to as a player.

“While there are restrictions that prevent owners or part-owners of football clubs doing certain things such as betting on football or owning a football agency, there is nothing to stop an owner of a football club, or a part-owner, from also being employed by that club as a player.

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“Such a scenario is going to be very rare and unlikely and has the potential to cause all manner of practical issues, but I believe there is some precedent for this:  Didier Drogba had a minority stake in Phoenix Rising at the same time as playing for them.”

Crucially, Ronaldo’s hometown club are able to offer him Champions League football, and they received a somewhat favourable draw – compared to what could have been – when the groups were confirmed on Wednesday, as they were paired with last season’s Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt, Tottenham Hotspur and Marseille.

Ronaldo has 140 goals to his name so far in the Champions League, 15 more than his long-term adversary Lionel Messi and more than anybody else, and scored six times for United last season in the group stages – though he was unable to help the Red Devils overcome Atletico Madrid in the last 16.

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