Cristiano Ronaldo has confided to friends that he is prepared to do “whatever it takes” to engineer a transfer to Real Madrid this summer.
Manchester United maintain that they will not sell their most prized asset under any circumstances, but Ronaldo is dismissive of his club's views and regards his planned world-record transfer to Real as inevitable.
Ronaldo appeared almost ambivalent about his future when, in a statement on June 4, he suggested that he would be happy to stay at United if no fee was agreed with Real. However, the depth of his determination to leave Old Trafford is now becoming clear.
A source close to the player said last night that he had made clear he would do everything in his power to persuade United to sell. That could mean anything from submitting a formal transfer request to refusing to report for pre-season training.
His next step will be to issue a further statement, outlining his intentions, as soon as Portugal's participation in the European Championship finals is over.
The end of the tournament is a week from Sunday—or Portugal's elimination, if that happens first—will trigger an escalation in the battle for Ronaldo, with Real planning to make a formal offer of about £60million.
United maintain that they will not even consider negotiating with Real this summer, but Ronaldo appears unwilling to contemplate another season at Old Trafford.
Sir Alex Ferguson has been convinced that Ronaldo is merely flirting with Real in the hope of securing a lucrative new contract. Even if United offered the forward a significant advance on the £120,000-a-week deal that he signed only 16 months ago—something that they maintain they will not do—he would, in his present state of mind, reject it.
He has been seduced not only by the riches of an offer in Madrid, but also by the idea of playing for Real, whom he considers a bigger club than United. He could also enjoy the lifestyle in Spain, having never been effusive about life in Manchester.
Ronaldo will go on a three-week holiday immediately after Euro 2008 in the hope that a deal can be agreed upon while he is away. Yet, with United insistent that they will not sell, the likelihood remains that he will be required in Manchester for pre-season training in late July.
The news yesterday that FIFA, the world governing body, will take no action against Real came as a further blow. United complained to FIFA last week over a series of public statements apparently expressing interest in Ronaldo. “No breach of contract appears to have occurred yet,” FIFA said in a statement.
What do you think Ronaldo should do: Stay OR Go?