Alex Ferguson has a right to be remembered as one of the best club managers the world has ever seen. His list of trophies (22 in 22 years) at the helm of Manchester United, including a treble (League, Cup, and European Cup) in 1999 helped earn him a knighthood. He even won the now defunct Cup Winners' Cup with Aberdeen back in 1983, beating, you've guessed it, Real Madrid.
He is also a controversial media figure, and has not spoken to the BBC since they broadcast a programme over his son's alleged involvement in the football transfer market, an allegation that was never proved.
Ferguson is known for his clever use of psychology on both his players and on opponents, most famously when he completely unsettled Kevin Keegan, then at Newcastle, for the 1996 league title. However, he is not above showing his frustration when things don't go his way, and frequently criticises referees when he feels his players aren't properly "protected."
In an interview with GQ Magazine published in The Times, he gives vent to some of his annoyances over the whole summer saga regarding the transfer of Cristiano Ronaldo.
"I knew it was coming, so I wasn't surprised. When we sold Gabriel Heinze to Real Madrid [the previous summer], we knew it was going to happen, because Ronaldo was very close to Heinze. I knew what they were doing. I don't believe they were interested in Heinze—good player though he is. The endgame was to get Ronaldo.
What made it really obscene was that Madrid, as General Franco's club, had a history of being able to get whoever and whatever they wanted, before democracy came to Spain."
OK, you can perhaps forgive Ferguson being annoyed that his star player was the target of one of the biggest clubs on the planet, and that they made few bones about making it known (even though appearances were more or less maintained).
The player and his advisers, who must surely shoulder a large part of the blame for the whole media circus, also unsurprisingly escape Ferguson's wrath—one wonders whether he would be so understanding had Ronaldo made a stronger attempt to leave Old Trafford. I won't even delve into the accusations he has faced of similar behaviour when he had wanted players to come to Manchester United.
But Ferguson is very conveniently ignoring both recent and ancient history. Gabriel Heinze did not go to Real Madrid in the summer of 2007 because he was part of a master plan to sign Cristiano Ronaldo. Heinze had been approached by Liverpool and Ferguson blocked the transfer, gifting a bargain to Real Madrid in the process. The whole thing was transacted in a matter of days, not weeks or months.
The whole General Franco claim is just laughable, all the more so in this day and age. Someone should perhaps point out that while Real Madrid won more league titles than either Barcelona or Atlético during the Franco years (14, vs. eight and seven, respectively), Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona, clubs from parts of the country that had been against Franco during the Civil War, won more cup titles (nine and eight vs. six).
Even if any of that were true, the suggestion that in the 32 years since Spain became a democracy, Real Madrid still have the attitude that they can buy anyone they want when they want because of the Franco legacy is just plain bonkers, or to use Ferguson's own word, obscene.
Real Madrid have been seen as arrogant in European footballing circles because since Florentino put the club on a much sounder financial footing, they have been able to compete in the hyperinflationary transfer market. His policy of buying the best player on the market every year was the subject of worldwide media attention, even if, as we now know, it actually led to an unbalanced side that won no trophies for three years.
That transfer market, it must be said, is now led by Premiership clubs flush with TV and foreign owners' cash. Real Madrid are not unique in looking out for the best players and never have been, something that Ferguson conveniently forgets. But hey, he says he's retiring at the end of next season. Maybe he can spend some of his free time reading some history, instead of revising it.