After a two-year chase, Real Madrid have finally got their man. Manchester United accepted their staggering £80 million bid today, and now Cristiano Ronaldo will finally get to play for his childhood heroes.
Since Florentino Perez rode into town on the back of his glittering white stallion, rumours have been flying about Ronaldo's future in a red jersey. Last season, Madrid, then under the stewardship of Ramon Calderon, almost forced the deal through. In the end, Alex Ferguson put his foot down, and the 24-year-old Portuguese decided to stay.
But in a sensational world-record move, Madrid have finally got their man. The fact that Madrid had their first bid of £80m accepted would lean towards the rumoured agreement between the two clubs that Ronaldo would be allowed to leave this year.
"United have agreed to give Real Madrid permission to talk to the player," said a statement from the English club.
It added that the decision came at Ronaldo's request after he "again expressed his desire to leave."
United then described the offer for the forward as "unconditional" and added that they expected the matter to be concluded by June 30.
Ronaldo will now join up with the Brazilian playmaker Kaka, whose own transfer world record of £58m only stood for less than one week.
Perez has said that the club need to do in one year what they would normally do in three, so that would suggest that the transfers at the Bernabeu are not finished for this year.
On paper it does look like the second coming of the "Galacticos," especially with players of such renown as Ronaldo and Kaka coming in, and on the field it could also turn out to be the second coming if top quality defenders are not added this summer too.
In his last stint as Real Madrid president, Perez oversaw the longest barren spell in the club's history and was almost chased out of Madrid by furious fans. This bad run came despite having players like Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Raul, and David Beckham on their books.
With him riding back in on a crest of a wave thanks to Calderon's resignation after a vote-rigging scandal at the club, Perez has grasped the moral high ground concerning corruption within the club, and the billionaire is now in complete command of the club without having an election for the position.
Ronaldo's transfer will sting many Manchester United supporters who feel that the club have made the player the huge star that he is, and that he should have shown some loyalty.
At every club there are players who cannot be sold—think Steven Gerrard at Liverpool or Frank Lampard at Chelsea. Ronaldo is simply not of the same importance to Manchester United; players like Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic are.
During the last season, Ronaldo's body language in a United jersey spoke volumes. He was clearly unhappy, and he showed a huge degree of petulance in his performances. He felt a new challenge was needed; he had, after all, won everything he could with United.
Now he will get the chance to join his boyhood idols.
Reading between the lines, and you always have to with transfers such as these, is to see who Manchester United will replace him with.
Conspiracy theorists will read into the fact that Real Madrid seemingly pulled out of the £50m deal with Bayern Munich for Franck Ribery last week and now all of a sudden have brought in Ronaldo and Kaka.
Ribery would be a fantastic replacement for the Portuguese at Old Trafford as an extremely hard-working player who has phenomenal skill to match. As mentioned before, he would be available for around £50m, which would leave United £30m to spend elsewhere.
The Carlos Tevez affair is still rumbling on. City rivals Manchester City are waiting in the wings to see if United will meet the £25m fee Kia Joorabchian is demanding.
That kind of money for a player that Ferguson sees as little more than a squad player would be foolish, so expect the canny Scot to go to Lyon for Karim Benzema, who would be available for around the £25m mark.
The remainder of the fee would allow Ferguson to chase a goalkeeper. At 38, Edwin van der Sar's best days are behind him, and with Robert Kuszczak and Ben Foster still some way from being a regular at Old Trafford, Fergie needs a top-class keeper in between the posts to maintain United's dominance in the EPL.
Other players who have been linked with a move to Old Trafford this summer are Antonio Valencia from Wigan for £15m and Marek Hamsik from Napoli.
Mark Schwarzer is in pole position to be snapped up by United. The Fulham keeper had another outstanding season in his first with the London side, and he helped guide them to their highest-ever finish in the Premier League.
Without him, Middlesbrough sank without a trace. During his time on Teesside, Middlesbrough never finished lower than 14th, but without him they were relegated, and Fulham profited by finishing seventh.
One thing to note on the Ronaldo transfer is that Ronaldo's agents maintain that a deal had been agreed upon last year, and if Real Madrid had reneged on the deal, they would have had to pay the forward some £26m compensation.
For Madrid, this is only the start of the summer signings. In Iker Casillas, they have one of the world's best goalkeepers. Their problems start at the back; they need a new defence full stop. Fabio Cannavaro, who was a spent force anyway, has left for Juventus, and he was the best of what was on show.
Without strengthening these four positions, Madrid can sign all the Galacticos they want, and it still won't be enough to wrestle the La Liga title from Barcelona's grasp.
In an ironic twist, Ruud van Nistelrooy, who left Old Trafford under a cloud after a training ground incident with Ronaldo, now looks certain to leave Madrid. Having not played for almost a year, the 33-year-old will definitely be moved on. Fulham and Spurs lie in wait.
For United, the player they bought as an 18-year-old for £12m in 2003 has grown up. In 196 games for the Red Devils, he scored 84 goals, including a phenomenal haul of 42 goals in 49 games in the 2007-08 season where United won the Premier League and the Champions League.
He is not the first big name to leave Old Trafford under Alex Ferguson. Roy Keane, David Beckham, and Eric Cantona all spring to mind.
What the Scot usually does is replace that player with someone else of outstanding quality. He has a brilliant eye for potential. Who he signs to replace Ronaldo could have a big say in the direction of next seasons Premier League.
For United, it is the end of an era. The player that they had to cheer on in a white jersey in the Champions League final against Barcelona will now wear the famous white kit of Madrid as they chase Barca for the La Liga title next year.
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