Friday 20 April 2018

Ronaldo's 'special day' as €90m deal ends talk of return to United

Jim White in Madrid

CRISTIANO RONALDO effectively killed off any chance of a return to Manchester United when he signed a new €90m contract with Real Madrid that will keep him at the Spanish club until 2018.

The 28-year-old, who had been linked with a move to Old Trafford during the summer transfer window to replace the unsettled Wayne Rooney, indicated that he is likely to remain in the Spanish capital for the rest of his career.

"Everyone knows that I was at Manchester for six years and it was a club that gave me many, many things," he said. "But Manchester is the past, now my club is Real Madrid. It's my home and my family and I are really happy here."

His words were in stark contrast with a statement he made a year ago. Then, during an interview, he claimed his morale in Madrid was at rock bottom and that he was "sad".

He did not at the time elaborate on the cause of his unhappiness, but it was an artfully dropped adjective which sparked a firestorm of rumour.

The suggestion grew that he had tired of then-coach Jose Mourinho's abrasive management and craved a return to a place where he felt unequivocally adored. It was a remark which had the stands at Old Trafford ringing with chants willing him back.

"Maybe that day I was a little sad," he said yesterday of his moment of dismay.

"It's normal. It's human. Maybe I shouldn't have said it publicly, but I am not perfect. I make mistakes like everyone else, but it happened and that page has been turned.

"Now I am fine, comfortable and very motivated. I want to continue at this club for many years and give it my all like always."

A cynic might suggest that there is sizeable financial reason why his mood has so manifestly lifted. The player, who has scored more than 50 goals a season since he was first recruited from United in 2009, and contributed his customary strike in Madrid's 2-2 draw with Villarreal on Saturday night, is to be richly rewarded for his hit rate.

Although neither he nor the Madrid president Florentino Perez, who stood alongside him at the press conference, went into details, it is believed that the contract – which has been under negotiation for some time – is worth some €18m a year. Not that he attributed his new-found good cheer solely to the size of his monthly pay cheque.

"In life there are more important things than money," he said. "It's important. I won't lie, but the project the club had for the future was more important.

"The club wants to sign the best players, and I feel included in that. I will be integrated in this project."

It is not so much the amount as where the new deal puts him in football's remuneration league table that counts.

It returns him comfortably to the top, the best paid footballer in Europe, ahead of the game's other big earners like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, paid €16.7m a year by Paris St-Germain and Lionel Messi on €14m at Barcelona. More to the point, it is a sum 50pc greater than what Gareth Bale is being paid by Madrid.

Indeed, that differential, plus the timing of this announcement – fewer than 24 hours after Bale made his scoring debut for the club at El Madrigal – seemed designed to provide reassurance to the player that, despite the new recruit, he remains at the epicentre of the enterprise at the Bernabeu.

After all, he was said to have been more than a little disturbed when the Welshman eclipsed him as the most expensive signing in the world last month.

But yesterday there was no doubt where Ronaldo stood in the pantheon at Madrid: at the very top. As president Perez put it, there is only one Ronaldo.

"He has won the hearts of all of Madrid's fans," Perez said. "And his goalscoring numbers are simply amazing. He has reached 203 games and scored 204 goals with Madrid. There are no precedents for such spectacular figures."

After Perez had finished speaking, came musical affirmation of his sentiment. A montage of Ronaldo's best goals played on the television screens, soundtracked by Tina Turner's 'Simply The Best'. The man of the moment seemed delighted by the compliment.

"It's a very special day for me," he said. "I'm very grateful, above all to the president and to my fans who always support me. It's for them that I will continue on here until what could be the end of my career."

And with that prediction, now it is the turn of Manchester United supporters to declare themselves a little "sad". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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