Only Ronaldo can end this saga
Last week Alex Ferguson slammed Real Madrid for using Spanish sports daily Marca as a mouthpiece to further their designs on Cristiano Ronaldo. United have backed their manager’s complaints by threatening to report the Primera Liga side to FIFA for their behaviour.
Real, however, deny any wrongdoing, saying all they have done is express their admiration for one of the hottest properties in world football.
“We aren’t going to start a conflict,” said Real president Ramon Calderon. “If a club does not want to sell a player why would we insist they sell him? We know they are not a selling club. It is a problem between the player and his team.”
Real have a point. Aren’t United pointing the finger in the wrong direction?
After all the one person who could end all the speculation is the player himself. All Ronaldo needs to do is say he is committed to United and the whole saga would be over in a matter of minutes.
But the winger, who is no doubt receiving some expert advice from his representatives, seems prepared to see which club can come up with the best offer before making any definitive decision on his future.
If United tried taking the case to FIFA, they would be hard pressed to prove Real have actually done anything wrong. However much it may appear to be, Marca is not the club’s official channel of communication.
Marca, of course, is by far the biggest selling newspaper in Spain with content primarily devoted to football and more accurately anything connected with Real Madrid. Arch-rival AS is the same. The two papers compete for the ear of the players and the top brass on the board, constantly vying with each other to provide the inside line on developments at the club.
But they both have around 50 pages to fill each day. During the season they report every quote from the daily club press conferences, give blow-by blow reports of training sessions, include cut-away diagrams of who sat where on the team plane, and even provide exhaustive lists of the kit the team might take on away trips in the Champions League.
But they are faced with a serious problem at the end of the football season. How on earth do they fill the paper when Real Madrid aren’t playing? The national team does not generate the same level of interest so they need something else to keep the readers’ attention and that is where the summer-long transfer saga comes in.
Former president Florentino Perez was a godsend to the Spanish press. His lengthy pursuit, and successful capture, of big name players such as Figo, Zidane and Beckham provided endless copy during the close season with every twist and turn documented in the papers and on television.
Since Perez’s departure the press have had to pounce on any scrap of information in the hope of reviving interest. For the last two seasons they have spent the summer talking up the chances of Cesc Fabregas and Kaka moving to the Bernabeu but in the end there was almost no basis to the stories.
But this season is different. Calderon’s undoubted desire to sign Ronaldo, off the record briefings from club directors outlining the club’s plan of action, the player’s refusal to rule out a move to Spain, and United’s angry response have provided them with the perfect ingredients for a summer-long saga.
No matter how much United complain this one will run and run until Real get their man or until Ronaldo comes clean about his future.
Simon Baskett, Madrid
PHOTO: Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring against Chelsea during the Champions League final, May 21 REUTERS/Darren Staples