Ronaldo Return to Man United
Ronaldo Return to Man United. It is a prophecy that has stuck with Ronaldo, obsessed him and, later this week, it will come to fruition when he signs a contract that The Sunday Telegraph understands will be worth €13million (£11 million) a season, adding up to €78million (£66 million) over six years.
That contract will be historic in itself, the most lucrative in football. However, that is secondary to Ronaldo’s real ambition: not only to fulfil his father’s dream of pulling on Real’s famous white shirt but to prove himself capable of conquering Spanish football as he did the English game.
“There is a big difference between Cristiano and some other players,” explained a source close to him. “With some players they change their mind every year. Now I want Barcelona, now I want Inter and so on. But with Cristiano it was always Real Madrid. Their difficulties in recent times on the pitch did not matter and he remained true to what he had always wanted. He has always wanted to play at Real Madrid. He never spoke about another club.
“There have only ever been two clubs for Cristiano: Manchester United and Real Madrid. Manchester United is a club that will always be in Cristiano’s heart. He has had six good years there and now feels ready for a new challenge. But he is still only 24 and has a long future in football and would like to come back to Manchester later in his career. If he leaves Real Madrid, he can only imagine doing so to return to Manchester United.”
For that to happen Sir Alex Ferguson would have to break with precedent – he has never re-signed a big-name player who has left Old Trafford. But the United manager has always been a staunch defender of Ronaldo, both in public and in private, and it raises an intriguing possibility for the Portugal international, should things fail to work out as planned in Spain.
Ronaldo has come close twice before to leaving for Real Madrid, in the summer of 2006 and last summer. On both occasions he was dissuaded by the combination of the caution of his trusted agent Jorge Mendes and the persuasive powers of Ferguson. In terms of the success he has enjoyed in the last two seasons at the club – one Champions League, two Premier Leagues and the FIFA world player of the year award – that advice clearly proved sound.
The first time he came close to leaving was in the aftermath of the 2006 World Cup. That was entirely down to the public vitriol which greeted his perceived role in getting Wayne Rooney sent off in England’s defeat to Portugal in the quarter-finals of the competition. With the game finely poised, Rooney stamped on Ricardo Carvalho and in the subsequent scuffle, Ronaldo’s protestations – and infamous wink – were seen as crucial to having his Manchester United team-mate sent off. England went out and the country sought its scapegoat.
So fierce was the public reaction that Ronaldo sought escape, with Madrid the natural bolt hole. Manchester United rallied round him, though, and, feeling that security, he played his way out of it. “He may look like he doesn’t care,” said a close friend, “but believe me he found that very hard. Every stadium he went to he felt like the No 1 most hated person in the country.”
Fast forward two remarkable seasons and Ronaldo was again on the brink of moving to the Bernabeu. In April 2007 he had signed a five-year contract worth £120,000 per week and he was turning in performances of astonishing brilliance. Throughout the 2007-08 season he was unstoppable: 42 goals as United achieved that incredible Premier League and Champions League double.
On the flight back from Moscow, with Chelsea having been vanquished on penalties, Ronaldo was strangely ruminative and laconic. It soon became evident as to why he was so uncharacteristically sombre. In his head he was leaving and soon after returning to Manchester he made it clear to Spanish journalists that he wanted to move to Real Madrid.
“He made a big mistake,” said a source in Portugal who is close to Ronaldo’s advisers. “He was maybe a bit naive. He thought that now, after five years, and having won everything, Manchester United would let him leave. Of course it was much more complicated than that.”
That Ronaldo ended up staying at Old Trafford was largely down to Ferguson’s proactive and direct approach. The Scot has a strong bond with Ronaldo, whose courage and professionalism he openly admires. The United manager flew out to Portugal and, together with Mendes, managed, in an intense four-hour meeting, to persuade Ronaldo that he should spend at least another year at United. Despite reports of pre-contractual agreements, no formal arrangement was made for him to leave this summer. However, Ronaldo was told that, if he was still determined to move in the next two years, and Real Madrid made a bid that United were happy with, then he would be allowed to leave. And this, of course, is what happened.