The Rafa Benitez era at Real Madrid got off to a slow start with a goalless draw and subsequent penalty shootout defeat to Roma in Melbourne on Saturday. But already there is talk of drama behind the scenes involving Madrid’s and the world’s two most expensive players.

Much has been made in the Madrid press of the fact that Bale was given a more central role in the club’s first preseason friendly, with the suggestion that it is a move to make the Welshman more of a focal point of the team. Afterward, Benitez confirmed that the selection “was not an experiment.” Following on from Benitez’s comments last week in which he declined to state that Ronaldo was the best player in the world, instead praising the qualities of all his attacking players, the move has also been seen by some as a slight upon the current world player of the year.

Ronaldo’s future has been repeatedly called into question this summer, particularly after he backed Carlo Ancelotti as coach just before he was dismissed and replaced by Benitez. Meanwhile, there have also been strong reports that Paris Saint-Germain are prepared to pay €125 million to turn their long-standing interest in the Portuguese star into a sensational transfer.

At the same time, in an eye-catching move, Ronaldo has also sold his image rights to a company owned by Peter Lim, president of Real Madrid’s La Liga rivals Valencia. And, according to the agent of Ronaldo’s former teammate Iker Casillas, that move suggests his future at the Bernabeu is in doubt.

“One day [Real Madrid president Florentino Perez] will need to explain why Cristiano works for another company outside of Real Madrid,” Santos Marquez told Spanish publication AS, via the Daily Mirror. “Imagine Cristiano generating €40 million elsewhere and giving it to Peter Lim, Valencia’s owner. It ends up in Valencia’s coffers and that’s deplorable.

“Will anyone speak out and ask Florentino why Cristiano has sold his image rights to Peter Lim? That’s not normal; it suggests that Cristiano is planning to leave.”

While that deal was indeed surprising, Marquez’s comments over Ronaldo’s future should also be taken within the context of Perez’s relationship with Marquez’s client. Casillas only just left Madrid for Porto under acrimonious circumstances, with strong reports of a lack of support from Perez for the long-term club captain and legend.

Were he to be made available, though, there would certainly be ample interest in Ronaldo’s services, even at what would undoubtedly be a massive fee. As well as PSG, Manchester United remain interested in bringing the 30-year-old back to Old Trafford, according to Metro.

And he is not the only Real Madrid forward said to be interesting the Premier League giants. Despite Bale seemingly being set for a more prominent role in the Real Madrid team this season, the Welsh attacker has also been linked with an exit in recent days. The former Tottenham star was cited as a target for Manchester United all through what was a difficult last season for him as he faced criticism from the Real Madrid fans and the city’s press. A comment from United manager Louis van Gaal has now reignited those rumors.

Van Gaal stated that he could yet make a “surprise” signing to add to his forward line before the close of the transfer window, which has got the Sunday People, among other publications, speculating that the player in question could be Bale -- despite being valued at €136 million. Such a move, especially at this stage of the transfer window, appears far-fetched, and there has yet to be any suggestion from Real Madrid or Bale that they are ready to part ways, indeed quite the contrary.

The business that Real Madrid are keen to conduct with Manchester United involves goalkeeper David de Gea. Despite having just a year left on his contract and by all accounts being keen on a return to the Spanish capital, Madrid have so far been unable to prize the Spain international away from Old Trafford. And, according to Marca, that impasse could go on for some time yet. The sports daily reports that with De Gea currently on United’s preseason tour of the United States and Real Madrid in Australia, it has been decided to put negotiations on hold. While Madrid haven’t given up on landing De Gea this summer, it is suggested that they are focusing on integrating goalkeeper Kiko Casilla, who only signed from Espanyol last week.

With United unwilling to sell De Gea unless Sergio Ramos moves in the opposite direction, it could be that Madrid go into the season with Casilla and Costa Rican Keylor Navas as their goalkeeping options.