Friday 22 May ~
Ever the professional, Cristiano Ronaldo has chipped in to help Manchester United’s preparation for the Champions League final next Wednesday by saying he doesn’t want to play for Real Madrid next season. With just five days until the biggest game in club football you would think this would be the least a club could expect from their best player. However, Ronaldo’s interminable flirtations with Madrid have been so regular in the last few years that it is now big news when he doesn’t use a press conference to hint at his dream to wear the sacred white with purple trim. Meanwhile, Alex Ferguson has somehow found himself biting his tongue and looking the other way like a husband who accepts the trade off for having a trophy wife is watching her flirt with other men every time they go out in public.
The Ronaldo quote that makes it so clear he’s going to stay went as follows: “I’m sure Pérez would create an incredible team at Madrid, but at the moment I’m at United and I don’t care about what happens there. I only care about what will happen next season at Manchester United.” The eagle-eyed will notice the reference to Florentino Pérez – the soon to be anointed Real president – there, and for the cynical among you, the reason for Ronaldo’s sudden change of heart.
Pérez oversaw Real’s often-derided galáctico project around the turn of the millennium and if he was to return with a similar system you get the feeling Ronaldo (the most galáctico of any potential galáctico playing today) would be top of his list of expensive players to shoehorn into a side. However, rumour has it that he will be adopting a different approach and the signing of Ronaldo would set completely the wrong tone for his second reign. If Ronaldo has done anything this week it is get in his rejection first.
Still, while Manchester United fans can enjoy this news, the fact all this is being framed by United and media against the backdrop of Wednesday’s Champions League final must worry fans of Newcastle, who need United to beat – or at least draw with – Hull on Saturday to help them retain the Premier League status that no neutral wants them to have. If Cristiano Ronaldo stays in Manchester his next Premier League match will not be until August, by which time his summer 2010 move to Madrid campaign will just be getting off the ground. Josh Widdicombe