Manchester UNITED will have to fund a £140million package to re-sign Cristiano Ronaldo next summer if they pursue a second attempt to lure the Real Madrid winger back to Old Trafford.
The staggering cost of completing a move for Ronaldo has emerged, with senior figures at Europe's leading clubs given notice of the player's £380,000-a-week wage demands and the prospect of Real seeking a £60m transfer fee for the 29-year-old.
With Ronaldo less than two years into a five-year contract at the Bernabeu, any potential bidder must also be prepared to sanction a four-year deal, worth approximately £19m a year in wages. An admission by United manager Louis van Gaal last week that the club would be interested in signing Ronaldo, five years after his world-record £80m transfer to Real, has added to speculation in Spain that the world footballer of the year could be sold by the European champions at the end of this season.
Ronaldo's fractious relationship with Real president Florentino Perez has become increasingly strained following his public disagreement with the decision to sell Angel di Maria and Xabi Alonso during the transfer window.
There is now a growing sense within the game that Perez will consider selling Ronaldo next summer. Equally, Ronaldo has done little to dismiss the prospect of a return to United, admitting only last month that the club was like a "second family".
"I love Manchester and you never know in football," Ronaldo said. "Of course I'm happy at Real Madrid; it's my home, it's my club, but United treated me unbelievably, so you never know. I am still in contact with some people there because I had a good relationship with everybody - it was like my second family."
United could have a clear run to signing the Portugal captain, with their most likely rivals for the player put off by the overall cost and the potential of Ronaldo's salary creating tension among team-mates.
United made serious and sustained attempts to re-sign Ronaldo during the summer of 2013, when the player encouraged interest from his former club during his contract dispute with Real, which was ultimately resolved.
But while United's interest was known to Ronaldo's advisers, wealthy rivals such as Manchester City and Paris St-Germain were also sounded out about the prospect of entering the race for the player should he abandon contract talks with Real and pursue a move elsewhere. While PSG expressed a readiness to rival United for Ronaldo, City are understood to have rejected the opportunity to move for him amid concerns over the cost of the deal and the minimal prospect of a sufficient return on the investment.
With City pursuing younger, less expensive targets next summer and PSG restricted by Uefa's Financial Fair Play strictures - City are confident they will break even in their next financial results and have no compliance issues with FFP - United would be in a strong position should they launch a renewed bid for Ronaldo.
Despite investing more than £150m on signings this summer, United remain determined to add to their squad and have the funds to embark on further lavish spending due to commercial deals that will earn them £75m a year and £53m a year from partnerships with Adidas and Chevrolet respectively. And with Real having signed Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez, Perez has ensured the presence of a new wave of galacticos to appease supporters should Ronaldo be sold.
United are aware of Ronaldo's emotional attachment to the club he represented for six years, having arrived as a teenager from Sporting Lisbon in August 2003, but there is also a belief that a deal would make business sense as well as satisfying the desire of supporters to see the player back at Old Trafford.
With uncertainty over the future of Juan Mata, and Robin van Persie having less than two years to run on his contract, the departure of either would unlock substantial funds to cover Ronaldo's salary.
Similarly, United may walk away from an agreement to buy Radamel Falcao, who earns £265,000-a-week at Old Trafford, if the Colombian fails to justify a permanent transfer during his season-long loan from Monaco. (© Daily Telegraph, London)