Ronaldo is already in the conversation of Madrid greats. History will see him mentioned alongside Puskas, Di Stefano, Raul and Zidane, and we may one day find his sculpted frame in gleaming bronze, staring down a free kick outside the Bernabeu.
"This Real Madrid is now Cristiano's Real Madrid," wrote Marca's Miguel Serrano in an editorial on Wednesday.
Only time stands between the 27-year-old and immortality in the Spanish capital. Three seasons is not enough to get him there, but five would be. Five would represent Ronaldo having given the best years of his career to Madrid.
For a player whose fragile ego looms large, how great is the temptation to stay put and complete the journey to legend that began with his extravagant, rock-star unveiling in 2009? Is there a better reason to commit to the club you love than to be cemented in its history?
And then there's the money. Ronaldo is paid a reported £10 million a year. His current deal runs until 2015, and it's hard to see a scenario where Madrid don't offer him a considerable improvement on that number in the coming months.
The question is whether they can offer him what he wants, and it encompasses both Ronaldo's financial and emotional needs at Madrid.
When it comes to his contract, it's not just about the money; it's about what the money represents. Multiple sources (Daily Mail, The Independent) have reported Ronaldo's desire to be the best-paid player on the planet.
According to this list compiled by Marca, he ranks 10th. When you consider Chelsea's masquerading striker Fernando Torres is paid more and Samuel Eto'o—past his best and on the game's richest meal ticket with Anzhi in Russia—is paid double what Ronaldo earns, you can see his argument.
In September of last year, Ronaldo executed a crude power play. After choosing not to celebrate his two goals against Granada, he told reporters he was "sad." It was a "professional issue," he said, and we were left to speculate whether Ronaldo was most wanting for money or love at the Bernabeu.
Perhaps it was money and love. Perhaps it was more besides. Wrote Andy Brassell for BBC Sport:
There are other potential strands of discontent. Ronaldo's relationship with his team-mate Marcelo has reportedly degenerated, and he is also upset with what he regards as the unfair treatment of his close friend and Real Madrid and Portugal team-mate Fabio Coentrao.
Whatever was going on, it's not been resolved—not even close. Ronaldo has yet to sign a new deal at Madrid, and he may even have turned down a 50 percent wage increase along the way. Meanwhile, his Madrid team have been cut adrift by Barcelona, and their La Liga defence is already all but over.
But it is important. Of course it's important. Ronaldo has asked Madrid to consolidate their affection for him, and the longer it takes for them to do so, the stronger the temptation to depart for a new love affair. Ronaldo is the beautiful fiancé in this equation; Madrid is the eligible bachelor stalling on buying the ring.
Granted, this is no ordinary ring we're talking about. But Madrid president Florentino Perez may already have taken too long to put a bag of diamonds on the table and ask Ronaldo to help himself. Ronaldo's mind may already be made up.
While Lionel Messi's simple heart will forever be warmed by the family that raised him at Barcelona, Ronaldo's needs constant attention. The supreme athlete hides a vulnerable ego, and Ronaldo's need to be loved is so strong that it may take another club to satisfy it now.
We know PSG are interested. We know they would offer Ronaldo a platform to satisfy his ambition and more than enough money to make him feel wanted. Manchester City could very well say the same, though Ronaldo's enduring love for Manchester United might work against him making that decision.
It's never been about how much Ronaldo loves Madrid. It's about how much they love him back.
And with other clubs waiting to shower him with affection and feed the hungriest ego in football, it's only a matter of time before Ronaldo engages in the third footballing marriage of his brilliant career.
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