You would think we’d be used to it by now, the rumours that surface every time the transfer window is close to opening, but every year it takes me by surprise.
There aren’t enough superlatives to describe what a fantastic season Cristiano Ronaldo has just had for us. Including his goal in the European Cup final, he has scored an incredible 42 from 48 games, making him the highest scorer in both the Premiership and the Champions League. He has won both the PFA and Football Writers’ Player of the Year for the second season running and is tipped to claim both European and World Player of the Year awards too.
However, with such success, the rumours of his departure only get stronger and more frequent. Real Madrid, who got knocked out by Roma in the CL Round of 16 after losing at home and away, retained their league title, but clearly have higher aspirations than just that. The team who United played on four occasions this season, beating them three times and drawing to them once when we fielded an understrength team because qualification in the top spot had already been confirmed, were too much for Real Madrid. They certainly need a player like Cristiano Ronaldo and aren’t afraid to keep repeating that sentiment to the press.
What is frustrating though is the lack of clarity surrounding the situation. One day he’s staying, the next he’s going. Personally, I have little doubt over Ronaldo’s future, he is going to stay with United, for the time being at least, but I’d like to hear that from him too. Having a pop at Ronaldo, who’s had such a wonderful season, seems more than slightly out of order to a lot of reds. However, what is with all this “nobody knows the future” bullshit? Why can’t he make promises to the fans, you know, the ones who’ve been singing his name week in week out, that his future, for the time being at least, is with us?
Imagine Wayne Rooney just had the season Ronaldo has, do you think any of this would be going on? Would Rooney make us second guess whether he was going to build on this success with us, or leave for another top European club? Course he wouldn’t.
Just how many times has Ronaldo spoken to the press over these past few weeks, avoiding giving clarity on the all important question?
May 1st 2008
“It is hard to live in Manchester,” he said. “But it is a great club, I am very happy here. I want to play here for many more seasons and get even better. The weather might not be great but I’m used to it, it’s a great club and that’s what’s most important.”
May 12th 2008
“I think I’ve not just improved this season; I try to improve every year,” he said. “I’m better now than five years ago. I think at the right club, playing with the right players, you learn all the time. This season has been good for me because I’ve scored many goals, the team have played fantastically to win the Premier League and we’re in the final of the Champions League.”
May 16th 2008
“It is always important that other teams like you, it gives you motivation,” he said. “The other teams say your name all the time, say they will give you this – it is good. I have said 1,000 times, I am very happy here. I want to stay in Manchester. This is my role but the future – nobody knows. Only God knows. I have said 10,000 times I have a dream to play in Spain, but sometimes dreams do not come true. I still dream, I still dream. I am happy at Manchester United, but the future? You never know.”
Wins Football Writers’ Award
May 18th 2008
“The boss is the reason I am here in the club,” he said. “He helped me a lot, not just this season but the seasons before. I feel very good at the club. I want to carry on like that. I have many friends here in the club. I have been at the club five years and I know everyone now – the staff, the players – and I feel like this is my home.”
Wayne Rooney gets in on the action when he is asked about Ronaldo. “I hope the partnership will continue for years,” he said. “Ronaldo is a great player and it will be brilliant if we can keep him at the club for as long as possible. He’s an unbelievable player.”
May 19th 2008
Real Madrid boss, Bernd Schuster, is drawn in to commenting on the situation. “I would like to have a lot of players,” he said. “But I don’t think that it is possible that Cristiano Ronaldo will be with us. I don’t waste time on these things. I think about who could come and not on speculation.”
May 20th 2008
David Gill is the next person to talk about Ronaldo. “He’s got four more years (on his contract) until 2012, he’s been with us for five years and we’re sure he’ll be with us for many years to come,” he said. “He enjoys it immensely here, you can tell that when you speak to him privately. Why would he want to leave? We have no intention of letting him go, we will make sure that he’s very happy here, as we do with all our top players.”
May 21st 2008
Gabriel YSB Heinze left United for Real Madrid last summer and also has something to say about Ronaldo. “I talk with Ronaldo all the time and I tell him how great this club is and the nice things that Madrid has,” he said. “But he has a coach who had trust in him when he was younger. Whilst Ferguson is at United it is very difficult.”
Ronaldo wins Champions League
May 22nd 2008
“I don’t promise anything, I don’t promise anything to my mum, I don’t promise anything to the supporters,” Ronaldo said. “I want to stay, but the future… no-one knows. I want to stay. We are going to see in the next two weeks, I don’t say I make a decision.”
May 23rd 2008
“I think I will definitely be here next season,” Ronaldo said. “Yes, I want to stay. I have played five years for this club and I’d love to stay here. I love the people, the players are fantastic, the atmosphere is unbelievable, the staff are great. That is the reason I want to stay. We won the most important trophies this season. I want to do it again next season but no one knows the future. I want to stay, I feel very happy in the club. I win trophies, the people are friendly, supporters are amazing, everything is fun for me. It’s very good.”
Sir Alex Ferguson slams Real Madrid’s behaviour, making it clear the club will not be selling Ronaldo to them. “I read last night that Calderon’s talking, Schuster’s talking and they use this Marca as their vehicle to unsettle players,” he said. “The simple facts are he’s got another four years left on his contract, that’s the first thing. When you want to keep someone you work hard to do it. That is a fact not lost on Manchester United, but it is a fact not lost on Real Madrid either. In terms of great clubs, the clubs with great moral issues, like Barcelona, have far better moral issues than Real Madrid will ever have. They’re not the only club Real Madrid who are interested in Ronaldo. Do you not think we’ve had many interest from big clubs in Europe in our best players? Of course, but they don’t get into the nonsense they get into. They have no moral issue at all, they think they can ride roughshod over everyone and they won’t do it with us.”
Carlos Queiroz, who played a big part in keeping Ronaldo at the club following the 2006 World Cup, spoke out. “He has made a fantastic development in the last five years,” he said. “At 23, he is young and he has a lot of things still to achieve at our club. And we think we have a lot of things to give him as well. I was at Real Madrid, so I know what I am talking about it. Real Madrid is not like Manchester United. There are times there when you don’t know who is in charge, whether it is the press or the club. It is not like England or some other countries, where the institutions are independent. Here, everyone works in the same direction. He and I have talked about this. You have to remember this speculation about his future is coming from the right arm of Real Madrid, from certain newspapers, which we know all about.”
May 24th 2008
Ronaldo talks of his plans becoming clear in a few weeks time. “What the press speculate about goes over my head,” he said. “I have already been used to it for the past two years. I am calm. Everything’s clear and I will repeat it once again so that the whole world understands, there will be news in two or three weeks. At the moment I am here, I am going to give my best and do the best possible in the European Championship.”
Ferguson seems to think that keeping Ronaldo now is not a problem, however we may find it more difficult in a few years time. “He’s 23 years of age and I think that when he gets to 25, 26, he will have a big decision to make then,” he said. “That will be the biggest task when he gets to that age. How big we are then, in terms of European championships, that will resonate with him and be very, very important to this club. That’s why I make the point of winning European trophies – we’ve got to do better at that. And we have got the structure here.”
May 26th 2008
“There is nothing certain at the moment,” Ronaldo said today. “The press always make stories about interest from other teams, not only from Madrid, also from Barcelona. On one hand it’s good and means that they know your value as a player and think you can be a good reinforcement for other teams. But my head is in Manchester because it is the club that, at the moment, puts me in the best condition and that I’m happy at. Now, as I have said many times, only God knows the future. I have never hid from anyone that I would like to play in Spain one day. It’s a dream, but sometimes dreams don’t happen. I can guarantee that I am happy at Manchester United and that I would love to continue.”
Whilst I made the comparisons with Wayne Rooney before, I am more than aware that is being unfair to Ronaldo. Whilst we’d love to think every United player lives, breathes and dies United, it simply can’t be the case for all of them. Rooney is mocked for the “once a blue always a blue” stunt, however whilst his roots will always remain Evertonian, now he looks as much a red as Giggs or Scholes or Neville. He is passionate about our club, our history, our fans.
He has grown up in a time when United have dominated the football in his country. When he was 11-years-old, signing for Everton, United won the Double, we won the Treble when he was 14. Similarly, for Ronaldo with his Iberian roots, Real Madrid won the European Cup and league several times throughout his teenage years. We therefore have to acknowledge they’ve grown up seeing different clubs as “the ideal” and have to expect their commitment to United will vary.
Ronaldo is a player we can never expect to be committed in the way we would expect of some others, but he is a player I hope we can keep for as long as possible. And whatever he is quoted as saying in the press in the morning, I can’t see him being anywhere but Manchester come August.