Thursday, 18 September 2014

Cristiano Ronaldo's shock return to Manchester United - separating the fact from the fiction


Cristiano Ronaldo’s affection for Manchester United is clear and the feeling is mutual, so what are the chances of him making a transfer from Real Madrid back to English football.

Cristiano Ronaldo's shock return to Manchester United - separating the fact from the fiction
A legend returns: Cristiano Ronaldo would be welcomed back to Old Trafford with open arms Photo: EPA/AFP
Ask anyone who worked with Cristiano Ronaldo about his time at Manchester United and two observations always come back in reply.
Firstly, there was a mutual sense of him being part of a family at Old Trafford, a place where a boy from Madeira was made to feel totally at home.
But the second observation is never far behind – that between November and April, he simply hated the Manchester climate and spent the cold, damp mornings and dark winter nights pining for a place where the sun did not spend all day hidden behind forbidding grey clouds.
Ronaldo got on with it, embraced life at United and worked like a demon on the training ground to become the world star that he is today, but for the final two years of his time at the club, he had more than one eye on Madrid and achieving the lifelong ambition of playing for Real.
Much more so than Lionel Messi, his only rival for the title as the world’s most effective footballer, Ronaldo is an emotional animal, a player whose move to Madrid was ruled by his heart and one who may yet end up back at United as a result of the same misty-eyed desire to fulfil a dream.
Despite only signing a £300,000-a-week contract at Real Madrid last year that ties him to the European champions until June 2018, the ‘Ronaldo to United’ speculation is beginning to bubble away again.
The saga ran throughout the early months of 2013 and continued apace throughout the summer transfer window until, having fluttered his eyelashes at a determined United, he pledged his future to Real.
A year on, we can now expect another prolonged period of ‘will he, won’t he’ rumours surrounding Ronaldo and a return to United and, just as during 2013, there is no smoke without fire.
United built a bid for Ronaldo last year, the money was in place to prise him from Madrid and the player made no secret of his readiness to consider a move back to Old Trafford.
The move never materialised for a host of reasons – principally Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement and the confusion of a transfer window which saw both David Moyes and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward stumble through their early months at the helm.
But United were serious about Ronaldo and, with rumours emanating from Madrid over the player’s discontent at the Bernabeu and apparent disillusionment following the sale of Angel di Maria to Old Trafford, they will be serious again about signing him next summer if the opportunity arises.
Yet there are many reasons to argue why it can happen and equally as many to suggest why it won’t.
Ronaldo’s affection for United is clear and the feeling is mutual, but Real Madrid only tend to sell when it suits them and, with the 29-year-old tied to such a lengthy contract, the Spaniards will hold all the aces.
Still, with Ronaldo approaching his 30th birthday next February, perhaps next summer will be the optimum time to cash in.
At 30, Ronaldo will still command a huge fee. At 31, the clock will be ticking much quicker towards the autumn of his career and that reality would shave millions off any transfer valuation. And Real president Florentino Perez is nothing if not a canny operator and a man who is prepared to realise an asset when the time is right, the sales of Mesut Ozil and Di Maria being proof of that.
Also, by recruiting Gareth Bale last year and James Rodriguez in the wake of Colombia’s impressive World Cup performances, Perez already has two new ‘galacticos’ in place to claim the throne should Ronaldo be sold.
But Perez would also have to sell the deal to the Real supporters, who would react with fury if Ronaldo was allowed to move to United without a replacement already lined up. Could that replacement be Radamel Falcao, a player who has previously made clear his admiration and affection for Real, despite his previous spell at Atletico Madrid?
Ronaldo and Falcao share an agent, a hugely powerful one too, in Jorge Mendes, so would it beyond the realms possibility that Real would regard Falcao as the pound of flesh required from United to appease their supporters.
If Falcao returns to the prolific goalscoring form displayed prior to his cruciate ligament injury, he would be an appealing proposition for Madrid and a potentially crucial negotiating tool for United should they make a serious move for Ronaldo.
Currently on loan at Old Trafford from Monaco, United have an agreement in place to make Falcao’s move a permanent one, but if Ronaldo was dangled in front of them, would Falcao become expendable?
But this is all based on the assumption that Ronaldo would want to return to Manchester. Perhaps the speculation emanating from Iberia, linking him with United, is a ruse simply to secure greater reward from Real for inspiring the club the la decima, their tenth European Cup, last season.
He may have landed a new contract just a year ago, but Ronaldo has since helped Real secure their Holy Grail, so what better way to bully the club into a new deal than by allowing the spectre of a return to United hover around for the next few months?
And while the commercial rewards for United from re-signing Ronaldo would appear obvious, next summer might not be the best time to recruit Nike’s most high-profile footballer with Adidas determined to launch their £750m, ten-year contract with the club to great fanfare.
Adidas will want to make the world take notice when United step out in their kit for the first time in 23 years, so the prospect of Nike riding on the back of the launch with Ronaldo in a pair of highly-visible boots is probably not the most appealing for the German sportswear manufacturer.
Louis van Gaal is unlikely to turn down the chance to have Ronaldo in his team, but the likelihood of any deal is that perhaps only two people will know what will happen and how it may come about.
Woodward and Perez may think they can control the outcome, but it will ultimately come down to Cristiano Ronaldo and Jorge Mendes. And in the meantime, both will be happy for the guessing game to continue.
The Telegraph

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