Manchester United have reacted coolly to the suggestions that Cristiano Ronaldo wants out of Real Madrid next summer to return to Old Trafford – not least because the player had the opportunity to return last year and did not take it. Instead Ronaldo chose to sign a new, improved five-year deal at the Bernabéu.
“It’s not something for current focus,” is the message from United, even if Louis van Gaal, the manager, stoked the prospect in his media briefing on Friday.
“It is possible,” Van Gaal said. “That’s what I have said with Falcao. Players like Ronaldo give a lot extra to the team, but I don’t think Real Madrid shall sell him.”
United believe that the final part of Van Gaal’s comment is the most relevant. Real would want to recoup close to the £80 million they spent in 2009 to acquire Ronaldo, and United will not countenance negotiating that kind of fee for a player who turns 30 in February. And then there are the wages. Close to £300,000 a week – after tax.
It is felt in football, however, that Real will sell if the price is right even if, again, United have pointed to the fact that most of the noise surrounding claims that Ronaldo is unhappy has come from the former Real president Ramón Calderón who has his own agenda given he was ousted by Florentino Pérez. It suits Calderón to suggest Ronaldo is unhappy with the current regime and wants to leave.
United did want Ronaldo last year. Then his contract was running down and his former club were desperately casting around to try to bring in a big-name to bolster their then manager David Moyes. They even bid £100 million to try and hijack Gareth Bale’s move to Real. But that was too late, while Ronaldo eventually decided he wanted to stay. And he signed that new deal.
Now United are treating the Ronaldo situation with caution. They do not want to get their fingers burnt by stoking it.
“He has four years left on his contract,” was the immediate response of a senior club source. “And we do not believe everything that we read.”
Of course United would not have to depend on what they read about Ronaldo to ascertain his intentions given that his agent, Jorge Mendes, has close links with the club and has done a lot of business with them recently. They have brought in Ángel di María and Radamel Falcao, who are also his clients.