Friday, June 06, 2008

My Dream Is To Play For Madrid

I've long been a believer that the media can make any story it likes true if it repeats it enough. When Martin Jol was sacked by Tottenham Hotspur, it was against the wishes of a majority of Spurs supporters, and in line with a concerted media campaign that began well before the club's form slumped at the start of the season. When Jose Mourinho left Chelsea not long afterwards, it was again a story that started in the press, and whipped itself up into a whirlwind to such a point that his position at the club became untenable. This phenomenon will appear to have reached its natural conclusion if Cristiano Ronaldo leaves Manchester United for Real Madrid - a scenario that is looking more and more like a self fulfilling prophecy with each passing day.

In the beginning, it looked like nothing more than it was - an under the counter, illegal approach by Madrid in cahoots with the Spanish media, who are desperate to to gain ground on the all-star Premier League. No-one in the tabloid press in this country seems to have stopped and asked the question of why Ronaldo would want to leave the best team in Europe for a team that have struggled and stumbled on the European stage over the last few seasons and have only ended up as the champions of Spain for the last two seasons on account of the relatively transitional current nature of Barcelona. On any level, it would be surprising if he thought that he was doing it to better himself as a footballer. Considerably more likely is the possibility that he is doing it for the money. The amounts being thrown about in the media are insane - £75m before tax over five years is the figure being thrown about by The Sun this morning, which equates to almost £300,000 per week - but it is not impossible that Real are prepared to throw this amount of money down the well. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is reported to have recently signed a new contract worth £183,000 per week, and Real have proved themselves before to be unafraid to break the bank in order to bring in whoever the hell they want.

Also, the truth of the matter is that, for all the bluster and outrage coming from Old Trafford over the last week or so, United are a selling club when the levels of money are this high. Those interest payments for the mortgage hanging over the club have got to be serviced. This might just be the first evidence of the new, financially straitened reality of life at Manchester United. Alex Ferguson may well be furious about it, but one can hardly imagine the Glazer family sobbing as they cash the cheque. With Malcolm having recently celebrated his eightieth birthday, there's a chance that it might even pay off a little more of the capital owed by the clubs to the myriad of banks of hedge funds that Manchester United is in debt to. It is possible that this is an example of the first of the chickens of the Glazer buy out coming home to roost. One wouldn't expect the biggest (and currently best) football club in Europe to be a selling club but the fact of the matter is that when you're £600m in debt, everyone has their price. What happens next will be very interesting in terms of giving out an indication of which way United will go now. If they rate Ronaldo that highly, they may consider matching Real's ridiculous contract terms. One suspects, however, that for all the bluster about their global "brand", and even with a new television deal kicking in at the start of the season which will bring even more money into the club, that the accountants will shake their head at any attempt by the playing staff at the club to offer one of their players £15m per year before tax.

There is, in a sense so fine that it is almost completely transparent that one can see straight through it, a logic to the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo. He was the best player in Europe last season, with very little doubt. He scored forty-two goals last season - a number so high that it almost defies belief. The suspicion has to be that there is no way possible that he will be able to repeat the form of last season again. An interesting parallel would be Ronaldinho, who looked similarly unstoppable for Barcelona a couple of years ago. His fall from grace would never have been predicted at the World Cup in 2006, but he has simply failed to hit those targets for the last two years now, to the extent that he is now a transfer target for Manchester City rather than Manchester United, and there are plenty of City fans voicing misgivings about the wisdom of bringing him in. There is nothing concrete to suggest that Ronaldo will go the same way, but the flip side to that argument is that there is never anything guaranteed when a footballer signs for a new club. Ronaldo could fail for Real Madrid. It's hardly as if there haven't been high profile players that haven't done this in the past. Ronaldo is known to enjoy the high life. Without the iron glove of Alex Ferguson to keep him in line, he might just fall off the rails. No-one can say for certain that he won't.

The one thing that is for certain is that the media circus that follows him around will not die down during the forthcoming European Championships, and that this uncertainty cannot have a positive effect on the atmosphere in the Portuguese camp ahead of their opening match tomorrow night against Turkey in Geneva. Cristiano Ronaldo's form in this tournament might prove to be the deciding factor in whether this most ludicrous of transfers comes off. Young Cristiano might yet he see his, cough, "dream" come true. For the unpopular Real president, Ramon Calderon, the unsubtle overtones might finally earn him something approaching a place in the hearts of the notoriously difficult to please Madridistas. Manchester United might lose one of their greatest ever players, and everyone at Old Trafford will have to do a little soul searching over their belief that their club is The Biggest In The World. And The Premier League, which, with the departure of the likes of Mathieu Flamini and Alexander Hleb from Arsenal and further rumours linking Didier Drogba, Ricardo Carvalho and Frank Lampard with moves to Italy, might just be a little more competitive next season.


Red Ranter said...

While I won't buy into the claim of the "Biggest club" -- which is again a media generated word, although "among the biggest" is a better word.

The hallmark of United under Ferguson has been coming back from the sales of big stars. We've come back from the sales of Robson/Hughes/Ince, Cantona's retirement, RvN's sale etc. I personally wouldn't be all that worried as long as SAF is at the helm. [As an aside: I wrote about SAF yesterday, but the comments were all about Ronaldo. :)] We may suffer next season, but that's not the end of the world. On this whole transfer saga, though, I had made a resolution to not talk about it on my blog for the past week. Today's friday, so I will write a full blown account of my opinion on the saga tomorrow. So you'll have to read that. [I'm sure you'll be on the edge of your seat!]

United fans for most part wouldn't do the supposed soul searching that you mentioned, because wondering if you are the biggest club misses the point entirely.

ursus arctos said...

I have one cavil with 200's account.

It isn't the "Spanish media" that are pushing this, it is the "Real Madrid sycophantic media" in the form of Marca and as, each of which has long been used by the club as a mouthpiece and each of which is falling over the other in their slobbering allegiance to all things Merengue.

I would also take the 300,000 pounds a week story with several mountains of salt. As I've noted elsewhere, the sums being discussed in Spain are much lower (and in fact lower than the Ibrahimovic contract).

And Red Ranter's last sentence is absolutely spot on.

Tote Football Pro said...

If United sell Ronaldo they will have £70m on top of their usual £50m to spend on players. My heart really bleeds. They will be able to buy, for example, Queresma, Alves, Benema and Aguaro. All this talk of them being significantly weakened is a little wide of the mark.

The hilarious aspect of it all though is that Sir Alex is seething that his "biggest club in the world" may not be able to hold onto its best player. I am thoroughly enjoying the media cicus going round, which makes a change as they are usually so scared of ferguson thye wouldn't dare write anything about Man U.

ursus arctos said...

Well, it isn't exactly clear that they have the "usual" 50 million now that the Glazers have been so generous with the debt, is it?

And the Spanish press is reporting that Sevilla has already agreed to sell Alves to Barcelona, while the current favourite for Quaresma (and perhaps Aguero) are Inter.

Agreed that it is highly entertaining, however.

Coach McGuirk said...

Well, I can see other reasons for Ronaldo packing up his boots and jetting off to Madrid outside the money.

Ronaldo has won the league with United in back to back years, and he has won the CL with them as well. What more does he have to do with MU?? He has won just about everything he can with the club. I'm sure a big fat raise, along with a coach who will ease up on him, a league where the refs will protect him, and fans who will appreciate his more annoying antics (the diving and general petulance) all are reasons that a move to Madrid must seem to be the right thing to do in his mind.

Besides, if the fee is 70 million, the Glazers will certainly not spend the whole lot on the debt. I'm sure they'ss give SAF 20 million of it, and I wouldn't bet against SAF in finding a mor than adequate replacement for that amount of cash.

All this means that, as an Arsenal fan, Ronaldo's departure won't really help out my club all that much.

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