As Real Madrid look to break the transfer record to secure Tottenham’s Gareth Bale, could the move signify that the end is nigh at the Bernabeu for the subject of the current highest fee ever paid, Cristiano Ronaldo? It had been thought that Madrid would only really push for the signing of Bale this summer if Ronaldo was to leave. Currently, the Portuguese star remains very much a Real Madrid player, but the determination on the club’s part to get Bale and get him now is undeniable.
But while speculation over Ronaldo embarking on an emotional and sensational return to Manchester United has certainly cooled, his future remains far from certain. The chief reason for that is the fact that the 28-year-old has entered the final two years of his contract, the point at which a player’s value begins to decline, and he has shown no sign of being keen to sign a new deal. Indeed, Ronaldo’s last significant words on the subject were to take to his Twitter account for the purpose of denying speculation that he was close to signing a new contract.
Previously, of course, Ronaldo sparked rumors about his future by saying that he was unhappy for professional reasons, which were suggested to be his desire for a higher salary and generally more support from the highest echelons of the club. One man that does not believe those issues have gone away is former Madrid president Ramon Calderon.
"I know that he is not happy at all with the attitude and behavior of the president,” he told Talksport on Wednesday. “He is asking for €20 million net every season which is going to be difficult for Real to accept.”
And Calderon also believes that the deal for Bale is linked with the uncertainty over Ronaldo’s future. “I think the president has all his eggs on the table just in case he can’t get the renewal of Cristiano. That is my impression. He’s afraid at some moment that Cristiano will say, ‘I am not going to go on.’ That will be bad news for Madrid. I would like to see him retire at Real but now the situation is difficult. Let's see in the next weeks or months if it can be sorted out and he can stay.”
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Of course, Calderon’s comments should be read with the caveat that he has made repeated pointed remarks about his successor, Florentino Perez, over the years. Indeed, the complex politics at the club are hinted at by Calderon’s previous suggestions that Perez wanted to veto a deal for Ronaldo after Calderon had setup the record breaking €93 million transfer before his tenure came to an end. The fact that Perez was not responsible for a player’s signing has been cited as a factor in his perceived lack of support for Ronaldo as it has been for others, such as the recently departed Gonzalo Higuain.
Perez certainly talks as if he is firmly behind Ronaldo, though, and as recently as last week again insisted that the player would finish his playing days at the Bernabeu. "Cristiano Ronaldo is the cornerstone of our project," he told L’Equipe. "He's the world's greatest player and I can now say that he will end his career at Real Madrid. We haven't received any offer for Cristiano Ronaldo." The truth, as is generally the case, likely lies somewhere between. It remains difficult to envisage Ronaldo leaving Real Madrid this summer, something that even Manchester United are believed to accept. While they may be prepared to pay an extraordinary amount to secure Bale, it would potentially be an even bigger gamble to make a player with just one season of Champions League experience the star of a side desperate to lift the European Cup for a 10th time.
Yet, equally, it seem feasible that the eagerness to bring Bale to the Bernabeu immediately is at least in part based on the suspicion that Ronaldo may not be there all that much longer. The fact that Ronaldo has still yet to sign a new deal cannot be a situation that Madrid are completely relaxed about. The player will see it as in his interests to let the contract run down and increasingly put the power in his court, whereas Madrid know they will have to act either this summer or next if they are to avoid the, at least for the time being, most expensive player in history, walking out the door for nothing in return.