Cristiano Ronaldo is scheduled to return to Manchester United today with his club ready to play hardball over any attempts for him to leave.
The Portuguese forward has reportedly told United he wants to move, less than a year after returning to the Premier League.
During a summer in which speculation over Ronaldo’s future has been rife, the club, with the approval of new manager Erik ten Hag, have insisted that Ronaldo is not for sale and they fully expect him to complete the final year of the two-year contract he signed after leaving Juventus last September.
United also state there have been no offers for Ronaldo, despite reports that his agent, Jorge Mendes, has mentioned him in talks with Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Napoli.
Ronaldo, 37, is scheduled to return to training today, a week after 15 of his non-international team-mates. He has enjoyed the statutory three-week break that players are allowed after summer international duty but United will clearly seek clarification over his position when he returns.
The developments over the weekend could not have come at a worse time for United and Ten Hag, who have consistently said that they wish to keep their leading scorer.
Now, with United leaving for their pre-season tour of Asia and Australia on Friday, the prospect of having to find a proven, front-line striker before the start of the new season early next month is daunting.
The lack of an existing forward successor in United’s squad, and the fact they abandoned their faint interest in Darwin Nunez at the start of the window, allowing him to join Liverpool, means that the chances of the club agreeing to allow Ronaldo to leave are slim.
Ronaldo has reportedly let it be known that he has become disillusioned by United’s lack of productivity in the transfer window.
And, while he has an affinity with the club and supporters, he wants to continue playing Champions League football rather than participating in the Europa League in which United will be competing next season.
However, today’s meeting will unearth how vehement Ronaldo is in those reported wishes to leave and what the next steps might be, for both parties.
Ronaldo may also be limited in his options, given the size of his salary, reported to be in the region £480,000 (€557,000) a week.
Although that is expected to be lower in the final year of his deal, due to incentive clauses built around United’s participation in the Champions League, there will be very few rivals able to compete in such a market place.
United, at least, are poised to start responding to concerns about the lack of new signings, with the £13m (€15.1m) arrival of Dutch left-back Tyrell Malacia likely to be confirmed today.
Malacia, 22, was expected in Manchester late yesterday to undergo his medical prior to the completion of formalities.
United are also still in discussions with Ajax over Argentine centre-half Lisandro Martinez, although they are in a competition with Arsenal for a player for whom they have opened the bidding at €40m.
And United remain relaxed about their pursuit of their top summer target, Frenkie de Jong, despite claims from Barcelona president Joan Laporta that the Catalan club do not wish to sell him and reports that the midfielder is happy to remain in Spain.
United’s position, that talks are productive and ongoing with Barcelona, has not altered.
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