As Cristiano Ronaldo gets set to grace Old Trafford for the first time as a Real Madrid player, speculation has predictably intensified that he could be set for a more permanent return to Manchester United.
In the past week, there have been stories that United were working behind the scenes on a financial package that could lure the superstar back to the club he left in a record £80 million transfer back in 2009. Such a deal, according to the Daily Star, would involve United using their sponsors to fund part of Ronaldo’s salary.
Certainly there are few companies that would not want to have Ronaldo as a global ambassador.
But, according to the Sun, United may not even need such an elaborate plan.
The tabloid’s story claims that Ronaldo would be prepared to accept a weekly wage of £250,000, reportedly the same as Wayne Rooney. This assertion is made, despite the fact that nouveau-riche Paris Saint-Germain are said to be prepared to offer Ronaldo twice that amount.
Despite the mounting rumors, it still appears a most improbable transfer for United to pull off. Much has been made by the media and supporters of United’s owners, the Glazers, syphoning money out of the club in interest payment. While they showed a willingness to break with their transfer policy for Robin van Persie, the signing of Ronaldo would be on a different level.
United operate under the guide of not spending significant fees on players over the age of 26. Ronaldo recently turned 28.
If Ronaldo does indeed want to leave the Bernabeu then he could well be short of options. He has already said that his affection for Manchester United would make it incredibly difficult to play for their local rivals City. Few other clubs could afford him, however.
Would Ronaldo take the huge wealth on offer in Paris, even though he would be playing in the prestige-lacking Ligue 1? That point is accentuated when talking about potentially accepting the doubtless enormous proposals that would arrive from the likes of Anzhi Makhachkala in Russia and even more far-flung soccer destinations like China.
Still the likeliest outcome, though, is that Ronaldo stays exactly where he is. Despite his stated unhappiness earlier in the season, Ronaldo’s form and body language does not currently resemble that of a player desperate to get away.
Perhaps, as has been known to happen, Ronaldo’s agent is putting stories out there to try and improve his client’s bargaining ability when a new contract is discussed.
Ronaldo’s current deal is set to expire in 2015 and Madrid will surely want to have the player tied down to an extension by this summer to avoid his value depreciating. Florentino Perez is up for reelection as Madrid president in June and that would appear the perfect time for all concerned to announce that their talisman will extend his stay with Los Blancos.
Certainly that is what Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has hinted.
"There hasn't been anything to encourage me to think Cristiano would come back here," Ferguson said, according to ESPN. "As far as I am aware, there is nothing in it at all.
“Ronaldo has got two years left on his contract and it seems to me it is all part of the negotiations that are going on about a new deal," he added. "Maybe his agent is playing the game. I think it is false hope."