Real Madrid say it would take a £350million deal to allow Cristiano Ronaldo to leave the club, which they expect to deter Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United.
The 32-year-old, unhappy at the Bernabeu because of a perceived lack of support over his battle with Spanish tax authorities, what he considers to be unfair press and the jeering he has received from some Real Madrid fans, signed a new five-year deal with the Champions League winners in November on £350,000 a week net.
His buy-out clause is set at £870m and though clearly no club — not even in China — could countenance meeting that, the Spanish newspaper with the closest links to Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, Marca, is reporting that it would take a £350m deal for them even to consider selling Ronaldo.
That breaks down to £175m in transfer fees and £175m in wages over the four remaining years of his deal, for which Real Madrid would expect to be compensated given that the player would have breached his contract.
Real Madrid have reacted calmly to the briefing from his advisors that their star player wants to leave and that his decision is ‘irreversible’.
They will not attempt to soothe him by phone over the next two weeks when he is playing for Portugal at the Confederations Cup in Russia. Instead, Marca have reported that the club plan a meeting in person between Perez, managing director Jose Angel Sanchez and Ronaldo after the tournament.
If the player persists with his demand of leaving, after he was accused by Spanish prosecutors of owing £12.9m in tax on image rights which were housed offshore in the British Virgin Islands and the Republic of Ireland, it is clear that Perez has a strong hand to play in negotiations.
Given that Ronaldo’s advisors have made it clear he does not wish to go to China, Real Madrid have surmised that only PSG, who have a long-standing hope of buying him, and United, who have also been desperate to bring him back to Old Trafford, appear the only realistic suitors.
However, although Ronaldo has proved his worth this season and is likely to win the FIFA world player of the year for a fifth time, he can no longer play with the intensity of his youth. That said, his marketability grows with age and United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has been desperate to sign players with the image to drive United’s brand.
United would have to weigh that against the physical potency of Ronaldo in the latter years of his career. If they choose to make a move, they will be encouraged by the turbulent relationship that Perez and Ronaldo have.
Previous managers at Real Madrid have been told that Perez’s plan was to sell Ronaldo — only for Perez to eventually agree new contracts with him, such is his importance in terms of marketability.
The original deal to sign Ronaldo from United for £80m in 2009 was negotiated by Perez’s successor, Ramon Calderon, and there has long been a view that, though the deal was announced shortly after Perez had returned to the club as president, Ronaldo was never regarded as his signing.