At least this didn’t carry on for the whole summer. When Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United went all quiet in the face of a series of public utterances from Real Madrid’s various honchos, it became obvious that this time it was going to happen. At £80m, few would argue that Ronaldo has not been sold for a fair price.
Where that cash is spent is the leading question for United fans, most of whom had long steeled themselves to the loss of the Portuguese forward. Ronaldo’s on-field demeanour and habit of painting a different picture to Iberian microphones than he had to English reporters endeared him to few as time went on. Rationalisation is already being voiced.
They will miss his talents, his ability to conjure up moments that turn a game. Season 2008-9 was regarded as below par for Ronaldo, as compared to the previous two seasons, yet two goals against Aston Villa gave Federico Macheda the platform to arrive on and it was a 40-yard strike on Portuguese home soil that took United past FC Porto.
Ronaldo’s place in United history is already being measured. He became their first Ballon D’Or winner in 40 years in 2008 yet, despite tabloid comparisons that were obviously fishing for reaction, he is nowhere near the pantheon on which Best, Law and Charlton sit. And though he displayed strutting arrogance, an iron will to win and a continental temperament, a lack of equivalent dignity will never see him compared favourably to Eric Cantona. “Looking for Cristiano” is hardly likely to be commissioned.
The jungle drums began on this saga back in 2007 when close pal Gabriel Heinze headed to the Bernabeu. Ramon Calderon was the Real president who set out to sign him in highly vulgar fashion. Calderon failed miserably in his stated aims of signing Ronaldo, Kaka and Cesc Fabregas. Once Florentino Perez replaced the hapless Calderon, it seemed ever more likely that the deal would finally happen. An old hand at this, having signed Figo, Zidane, Beckham and the other Ronaldo during his previous incumbency, Perez has seemed assured in his aims, especially when compared to his desperate predecessor.
Fabregas has dropped off the Real radar for now though one wonders what Kaka thinks of being an almost budget signing. Ronaldo now takes the same path as David Beckham, who it is said, advised Kaka to join Real Madrid. Beckham’s time at the Bernabeu did not match the glory of his Old Trafford days, with Real relying on individualists. Ronaldo, of course, is the individualist’s individualist and may need to be on his mettle considering his new team’s deficiencies in midfield and defence.
His old team, meanwhile, seemingly have £80m to spend. That’s if it’s not spent on the club’s ever spiralling debt mountain, a legacy of the Glazer regime for whom Ronaldo delivered on-field success and now a pile of hard cash.
What next for Sir Alex Ferguson? Many will pick apart his December reaction to a Real rumour that they had a deal in place for Ronaldo: "No chance. I would not sell them a virus. That is a 'no' by the way. There is no agreement whatsoever between the clubs."
Well, there is now. And had the erstwhile winger become a virus? There were plenty of signs that he was beginning to become disruptive in the dressing room. See his behaviour after being subbed during the Manchester derby and check out some obvious coldness towards Dimitar Berbatov. Such matters are Real Madrid’s problem now. One thing Ronaldo will have to turn around is his lack of a decent showing against a Spanish team. Three matches against Barcelona and four below-par showings against Villarreal have hardly convinced the Spanish public, among whom he is not yet Mr Popular.
Next season will see Ferguson again given the chance to reinvent his side. He will hope for better times than in the immediate post-Beckham era. That summer of 2003, among a group of ill-fated signings (Kleberson, Djemba Djemba, Bellion and Howard) he landed a certain young Portuguese winger, whose dazzling debut cameo against Bolton promised plenty for the future.
Six years later, with trophies galore landed and £80m banked, Ferguson must now unearth a new star and change his team’s focus. Ronaldo is now a former Manchester United player; an arrangement that may well suit all concerned.