Date:Monday June 9 2008
Cristiano Ronaldo promised to remain silent about his future until after the European Championships. He kept his promise - for a little more than 48 hours.
After the game against Turkey he announced that 'I still haven't decided where I will play'. Now, I'm aware of the realities of the modern game: if a player wants to leave then the club seldom manages to keep him. Yet I feel it's a tad disrespectful from Ronaldo, talking about 'his' decision - after all, he's under contract so the club will decide where he will play next season. Ronaldo can decide one thing: where does he WANT to play.
He does not lack advices though. Real Madrid, of course, got a horde of their ex- and current players on to the task of luring him to the Bernabeu. Luis Figo, Claude Makelele, Ruud van Nistelrooy: they were the latest to speak out and praise Madrid to no ends. Of course, Makelele probably had his current employers' interests on his mind, too...
United, finally, started to engineer a response. Bryan Robson, Gary Neville and Rio Ferdinand all told the press that Ronaldo is at the best club in the world right now and has no reasons to leave: he's adored here, this is the best team in the world right now whereas Real haven't even got past the last 16 of the Champions League in the last 5 years.
The latest rumour is that AC Milan have entered the war for Ronaldo and though I do not think for a moment that this speculation has any substance to it, it's still good news: we can ask for heftier amounts of money if other clubs are allegedly interested. So, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter: do us a favour and talk to the press about your interest in Ronaldo.
Further news is that United finally report Real Madrid to FIFA. David Gill is sending a letter complaining about the methods and the underhand tactics of the Spanish giants in their pursuit of our prize asset. Unfortunately they probably won't be expelled from the Champions League or suspended in the transfer market nor their stadium will be demolished... but an official warning will be enough for me. At least it shows that the laws are on our side.
An interesting sidenote: if Ronaldo does indeed sign for Real Madrid he'll be their fourth European Footballer of the Year (Ballon d'Or) winner in this decade who wins the prize as a Real Madrid player but not for his performances in a Real Madrid shirt. Luis Figo was brilliant for Barcelona in 1999/2000, signed for Real and got the prize. Ronaldo (the Brazilian) won the top goalscorer award at the 2002 World Cup, signed for Real and won the Ballon d'Or. Fabio Cannavaro was the bedrock of the Italian defence at the 2006 World Cup - then he was signed by Real and got the prize.
It tells you what Real Madrid are about: not the football but the marketing. They love to reap the financial benefits of top players even though they are nowhere near their previous commanding best after they sign for the club which is not about football. Real are not bothered by being spectacularly poor on the pitch: the important thing is that the big names sell the brand.
The last player who won the Ballon d'Or for his performances in a Madrid shirt was Alfredo di Stefano. In 1959.
Date:Monday June 9 2008
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