Cristiano Ronaldo is a figure of legendary status for Manchester United fans, but reports suggest the Portuguese superstar's long-awaited return is "almost impossible" due to the costly fees involved.
Mark Ogden of The Telegraph recently suggested United could be forced to pay a total of £140 million for the player when calculating his transfer fee and wage expectations.
Although Louis van Gaal's side has cash to spend, Ronaldo will be 30 in February and is likely to lose some of his athletic ability in the next few seasons.
Such a realisation makes the move difficult according to an inside United source who spoke to Ian Ladyman of the Daily Mail:
"Ronaldo will always be loved here. But if you look at the numbers and his age than you have to ask if it really could be made to work," said the contact. "We are not at all sure it can."
Ladyman himself notes the transfer is borderline impossible unless Real Madrid or Ronaldo lower their expectations, a notion backed up by Ogden:
The Ballon d'Or winner recently admitted he has "family" in Manchester but also told United fans he's "good in Madrid," per Gazzetta dello Sport and via Vaishali Bhardwaj of Metro. This came after he saw a "Come Home Ronaldo" banner flown over Madrid's clash with Villarreal, an event organised by a group of supporters.
Ronaldo's willingness to return to Old Trafford would seriously be tested if it involved a pay cut. Fans are longing for his reappearance in the red shirt, but one of three situations is likely to pan out. United could pay whatever's necessary to Ronaldo and Madrid president Florentino Perez; depend on the player to lower his demands as his current contract comes to a close; or they could miss out altogether.
Of course, CR7 could make this a whole lot easier by stating his desire to leave and accepting a package that doesn't seriously dent United's finances. The club provided him with a major stage in which to showcase his talents and played an important role in his development. Perhaps, if heart overrules head, Ronaldo would be feeling charitable.
Ladyman believes that if Sir Alex Ferguson had remained at the club, Ronaldo could have rejoined last summer.
Unfortunately it wasn't to be and United went on to enter an alarming slumber under David Moyes, which Van Gaal is yet to quash. Since the English club's struggle, Ronaldo has broken records and captured La Decima at Madrid.
Van Gaal is said to be hunting another Portuguese talent who is based at the Bernabeu. The Guardian's Alan Smith reports Van Gaal has "entrusted Angel Di Maria to persuade Fabio Coentrao to follow him from the Madrid sunshine," a move which would help tighten the side's defensive options.
Coentrao was originally linked to United during Moyes' reign, but true to form, the Scottish manager was unable to tie up a deal.
The club recently signed left-back Luke Shaw to take over from Patrice Evra, but with United's centre-back options failing and Marcos Rojo pushed into the middle, wide reinforcements are needed.
Coentrao has made just one appearance this season and continues to suffer consistent injury problems, meaning he would slot in well alongside the eternally unfit Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans.
United's credentials will be seriously tested over the coming weeks, as fixtures with Everton, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal await before the end of November. Considering United have won two games from six against lesser sides, Van Gaal could find himself under serious pressure if a decent haul of points isn't accumulated.
January will certainly be a key month for the club, but as reports over Ronaldo roll on, it looks to be another Portuguese player who is likely to make the journey from Los Blancos.
It isn't called the Theatre of Dreams for nothing, however, as many will continue to yearn for their idol's homecoming.