Gareth Bale leaks reveal truth of Cristiano Ronaldo's egomania
The editors at GQ Magazine were adamant: no special effects were required to produce the picture of Cristiano Ronaldo that graces the cover of this month's edition.
There is the Real Madrid star wearing a large grin and not a lot else, standing in front of the equally underdressed Victoria's Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio, in the process exposing a physique that can only be described as knotty.
An astonishingly taut landscape of bumps and crevices, this is a body of the sort that puts him right at the front of the queue when it comes to auditions for the next series of Poldark.
Apparently everything about it is entirely natural. No work was needed. The magazine's bloke with the Photoshop programme, who is employed to smooth out model imperfections in such circumstances, was left twiddling his thumbs.
Ronaldo, according to the magazine, is not so much untouchable as un-retouchable. He should be in line, so they insist, for the "Nobel Prize for Physical Perfection".
Which, if nothing else, suggests the magazine's ego-buffing department is in full working order, bowing, scraping and polishing ferociously.
But that is what happens when you deal with Ronaldo: it is not enough to pay him a wheelbarrow load of cash to appear on your cover, you need to tell the world that his abs are the very embodiment of perfection.
This week we got an astonishing insight into the scale of the Ronaldo ego.
The website Football Leaks published what it said was a copy of a document detailing the contractual requirements when Gareth Bale was signed by Real Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur in 2013.
The leak has provoked considerable anger both at the clubs involved and with the player's representatives.
However, there is one thing about their fuming discontent - nobody is denying that this is the genuine article.
It is not the detailed vertiginous scale of the figures revealed that is embarrassing those intimately involved.
However bloated, the sums are not apparently anything to be bashful about.
What is far more uncomfortable is the degree to which Ronaldo was placed at the core of negotiations which ostensibly had nothing to do with him.
His ego sprinkled egg shells across the conference room floor, around which discussions had to be delicately led. Never mind the elephant in the room, his were the abs in the corner.
Even as they concluded the deal to bring Bale to the Bernabeu, Real's senior negotiators were acutely aware of what effect it might have on their star man's self-esteem.
For four years since they signed him from Manchester United he had been the undisputed most expensive player in history. And here were his very employers in a position to push him into second place by paying more for Bale.
From the start, his feelings were paramount: Tottenham were told no fee could exceed the €96m forked out when Ronaldo joined from Manchester United in 2009.
Tottenham's Daniel Levy, however, is rarely shy when it comes to money matters. And the documents reveal that when Real sought to pay in instalments, he pushed the price up to €100,759,418.
The Spaniards reluctantly agreed, on one condition - Spurs' and Bale's representatives would go along with the line that he cost €91m, comfortably below Ronaldo's record fee.
Given the extent to which their bank accounts were about to be swollen, it seemed churlish not to agree to the deception.
So it is that, since he arrived in Spain, the public have been routinely informed that Bale was cheaper than Ronaldo.
Thus the Portuguese's sense of self-worth remained uncompromised. Until now.
What is extraordinary about the leak is not the fee so much as what it tells us about the scale and influence of the Ronaldo ego.
We know that the contracts of footballers are governed by all sorts of issues concerning things like image rights.
What was less appreciated was the degree to which third-party feelings can impinge on the process.
As he does most things, Bale comes out of the whole sorry story rather well.
Unencumbered by such debilitating self-image, he did not appear to mind that no one knew he was, in fact, the most expensive footballer ever.
He was just thrilled to be playing at Real.
But imagine if it was anyone else the club were trying to buy. Imagine trying to sell that idea to Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
"Sorry Zlat, mate, we're going to have to pretend you're not the most expensive player in the world. And you're going to have to keep schtum about it. Because, you know, we don't want to upset Ronnie."
As an opening to discussions, you feel that would have been a non-starter. (© Daily Telegraph, London)