Real Madrid, despite being the reigning La Liga champions, are struggling badly this season. In a league which has offered precious little competition to the "big two" of themselves and Barcelona for a decade, they currently languish in third place amid rumours of the manager departing and with big-name stars sitting on the bench.
In amongst all this furore, though, has come a big announcement for the club in the past couple of days—the world's most expensive player, Cristiano Ronaldo, confirming he wants to stay at the club until 2015.
With two-and-a-half years remaining on his contract, the forward could easily have demanded he be sold this coming summer following what is likely to be a season of underachievement, as his resale value would decrease sharply thereafter.
Then again, the teams who would be able to pay the likely £60 million-plus asking price if he were to leave in the summer would leave the Portuguese attacker with extremely limited choices as to his next career move.
The fact remains for Real Madrid that not only is Ronaldo their most marketable athlete and best all-round player, he is also a consistent match-winner for them.
Having eclipsed the one game:one goal ratio for his club since signing for them in 2009, Ronaldo continually proves the best chance of Madrid winning any given game.
In his three-and-a-half years at the club so far he has scored an amazing 128 in 119 top-flight league games; replacing that kind of quality and consistency would be nigh on impossible for the power-brokers at the club.
Madrid are currently 18 points behind leaders Barcelona, surely an insurmountable total to mount a comeback this year, but when 2013-14 kicks off on an even footing they will stand a good chance of success once more simply because of the continued presence of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Even since suffering the disappointment of losing out once more to Leo Messi in the Ballon d'Or for a fourth season running, Ronaldo has hit back since the turn of the year to score five goals in just two games.
In the calendar year's first match, a brace helped overcome Real Zaragoza 4-3. Ronaldo scored two goals, two minutes apart, to send the scoreline from a 2-2 draw to a clear lead for Real, which they eventually held onto.
Soon after he hit a Copa del Rey hat-trick against Celta Vigo, overturning a first leg deficit single-handedly in the process.
Notably, in the only other match Real have played this year—on Saturday against Osasuna, the league's bottom club—the team failed to score. Ronaldo did not play in the game. In fact, Real had only nine shots in the whole game, whereas Ronaldo averages almost eight shots per match by himself this season.
What happens beyond the expiration of his current contract is yet to be determined. Ronaldo will be aged 30 at that point, certainly still in great physical condition given the athletic nature of his body, and capable of playing at the game's highest level for some time longer.
Madrid will certainly not want to lose him for nothing, given that they will have spent approximately £142 million on him by that point (£80 million transfer fee plus his wages estimated at £200k per week), but if the forward has designs on leaving the club it is also unlikely that he will sign a new deal beforehand.
He is a showman, an ego, a machine and a goalscorer.
But most importantly for Real Madrid, he is theirs for another couple of seasons at least.
Statistical data from WhoScored.com and TransferMarkt.co.uk
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