Why the latest Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United rumours are finally credible
We woke this morning to ‘breaking reports’ claiming Cristiano Ronaldo has decided to quit Real Madrid, sparking inevitable rumours of a return to Manchester United.
Of course, we have read this fantasy story many, many times before and on each occasion it has exploded into the media spotlight, eyes tend to roll and scorn is poured on the prospect.
In truth, United have never seriously believed they could bring Ronaldo back for a second spell at Old Trafford and the player has never come close to leaving Real Madrid since he sealed his £80m move from United back in 2009.
Yet this time it feels different. This time, at the age of 32, Ronaldo could be finally up for grabs and there may only be one club capable of signing him.
Portuguese newspaper A Bola have published a front page story claiming Ronaldo has made an 'irreversible' decision to leave Real Madrid, with the tax fraud charges brought against him in recent days likely to be at the root of his annoyance.
A Bola would not have run a bombshell of this magnitude featuring their country's most famous sportsman unless they had very credible evidence that it was true and now the fall-out will ripple through football for the weeks and months to come.
This may be a knee-jerk reaction from Ronaldo to confirmation earlier this week that the Spanish authorities are looking to press forward with charges suggesting he defrauded the Spanish tax office of €14.7million (£12.9m).
Ronaldo and his management team have strongly denied those accusations and will fight them in the court case that may now follow, yet it could be that the player views his departure from Spanish football as his ultimate revenge on the injustice he feels is coming his way.
Time and again, Ronaldo has fuelled the rumour mill over stories that he wants to return to United, with his affinity for the club that gave him his big break on the world stage never fading.
His constant references to United on his vast social media audience provides evidence of the enduring passion he still has for United and if the reports in Portugal are true and he has decided to leave Real Madrid this summer, there may only be one destination for him to land.
His somewhat fraught relationship with United manager Jose Mourinho during their time together at Real Madrid may be an issue that needs to be overcome, but manager and player know that they will be good for each other if they are reunited at Old Trafford.
With Mourinho and Ronaldo's agent Jorge Mendes well connected at United, what would be the biggest transfer of all time in terms of the fee, the wages and the image rights would set records aplenty of it comes to pass at last.
United are desperate to sign a marquee player to replace the departing Wayne Rooney this summer and they don't come any bigger than Ronaldo, so Old Trafford chiefs will be intrigued by the news breaking today.
Plenty of boxes would need to be ticked before Real Madrid modern day icon walks away from the club and returns to Manchester United, but maybe the time is finally right.