A player source told The Sun: "The move had been bubbling but they all genuinely thought that it would not happen once Kaka went to Madrid.
"So it came as a big surprise that Cristiano went too."
The source added: "Many might think he was a bit of an outsider and not liked but it was quite the opposite.
"He loved to take the mickey out of the players and was happy to be on the end of jokes as well.
"The players are genuinely sad to see him go - not only because of what he can do on the field but also for his fun off it."