Are Man United willing to fork out €350k-a-week to prise Ronaldo back from Madrid?
While most footballers begin to see a reduction in salary once they hit 30, Cristiano Ronaldo can expect to at least match, if not increase his wage packet should he decide to leave the Bernabéu.
The future of the three-time Ballon d'Or winner continues to be a major talking point, not helped by troubling matters on the pitch.
Los Blancos slumped to a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of their rivals Barcelona which prompted President Florentino Perez to give under-fire manager Rafa Benitez a public vote on confidence.
Such a move may well be a kiss of death for the former Liverpool manager and with relations between Benitez and his star player reportedly at a low ebb, it could play a significant role in where the 30-year-old is playing his football next season.
It's only two years since the Portuguese star penned a five-year deal, which according to Marca, took his earnings to somewhere in the region of €340,000-a-week. Or a cool €17m a year up until the end of the 2018 season.
The deal came after public utterances that the marquee forward was considering his future, though his so-called "unhappiness" never revealed as he put pen to paper on the lucrative deal.
Last year he was the second-highest earning athlete in the world behind Floyd Mayweather. His endorsements alone reaching €26m for 2014. naturally he has been at pains to insist that money is not the primary motivating factor.
"In life, there are things more important than money,'' he told reporters after signing his new contract in 2013."It is important, I am not going to lie, but the project is to win things. I feel integrated into this project. The issue is not whether I'm the best paid in the world, the second or the third.''
For Madrid supporters it may feel like a case of déjà vu as speculation mounts over his next move. He is His body language on the pitch in recent games has been called into question - he has still managed 13 goals in 18 appearances - while his agent…sorry, superagent Jorge Mendes is speaking at every available opportunity.
Perez told a Spanish radio station in September that Paris Saint Germain would have to fork up €1 billion to secure Ronaldo's services if as expected, they seek to replace one superstar [Zlatan Ibrahimovic] with another.
Such a figure is of course for the benefit of the Madristas – other Spanish reports are suggesting the club will accept a fee in the region of the €94m they paid United in 2009, even slightly less – if the player truly wants to leave the La Liga giants.
The Red Devils of course are monitoring events closely. Manager Van Gaal ensured many more column inches on Sunday and Monday were filled with 'Ronaldo return' headlines by answering positively when quizzed if he would like to see the player back at Old Trafford.
Read more here:
- Man United seek Ronaldo reunion, but may be be second in line for prized signature
- Manchester United on alert as Ronaldo warns Real Madrid: 'Sack Benitez or I am gone'
- Wayne Rooney wanted by Chinese Super League while door closes on potential Ronaldo return to Old Trafford
Patrice Evra says Alex Ferguson was "99pc" convinced that the Sporting Lisbon prodigy would return to United, but the murky world of contract dealings has seen United get their fingers burnt in the past when attempting to raid the Bernabéu. Fabio Coentrao nearly moved during the David Moyes era but it fell through before the close of the transfer window, Gareth Bale was thought to be close to a Premier League return before a deal was scuppered while Sergio Ramos flirted with the idea last summer before committing to his employers.
The sums behind a proposed move for the 123-cap international are eye-watering. Despite the fact he will be 31 next summer, the Red Devils are reportedly prepared to match his hefty pay packet in Spain. The Daily Mail and a number of Spanish publications go as far to say that a deal would actually see a slight increase in wages to a cool €365,000-a-week and surpass captain Wayne Rooney as the highest earner at the club.
The question on many lips is would Ronaldo fit into Van Gaal's philosophy? It is almost an absurd question given the his gifted qualities and the fact he would bring some badly required creativity to a United attack. He would undoubtedly be the focal point that has been absent since the Rooney/Van Persie partnership during the last Premier League title success in 2012.
The Dutch manager however may be more inclined to spread his resources elsewhere and avoid putting all his eggs in one basket.
Can a club in transition afford to spend all their outlay on one player, even if he arguably the most gifted player in the world?
A great deal of United supporters would undoubtedly say yes, but a penny for the pragmatic thoughts of Van Gaal.