Cristiano Ronaldo – The Real deal

By Ian Walsh    
Man Utd accepted an £80 million bid from Real Madrid (Photo: Gordon Flood)

Man Utd accepted an £80 million bid from Real Madrid (Photo: Gordon Flood)

Cristiano Ronaldo moved to Manchester United just over six years ago in 2003, joining a side that consisted of Roy Keane, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Nicky Butt, Phil Neville, Tim Howard, Mikael Silvestre and Quinton Fortune.

All of the above have since moved on to pastures new, but there is a clear contrast. They were all easily replaced, and weren’t sold for the staggering sum of £80 million. But then again, none of them were world player of the year.

Ronaldo came to the attention of the club after United played his then team Sporting Lisbon in a pre-season friendly, and were beaten 3-1. After the game, it was reported that the Manchester United players were so impressed by this kid from Madeira, that they begged Fergie to sign him.

At just 18-years-old he was bought for the sum of £12 million, becoming Manchester United’s first-ever Portuguese player. Who knew that six years on the Premiership champions would be making a profit of £68 million on him, not a bad return from “the mob he (Ferguson) wouldn’t sell a virus to”?

Real Madrid came up with the trump card of £80 million, after two years of courting for Ronaldo’s signature – this was an offer Manchester United simply could not refuse. United in turn accepted the offer on June 11th, but it was only on Friday that the deal was finally confirmed. As Real Madrid’s official website announced, “The player will be tied to Real Madrid for the next six seasons. He will be presented on July 6th at the Santiago Bernabeu.”

After joining United Ronaldo requested the number 28 shirt, the same number that he wore at Sporting, but was entrusted with the number 7 shirt, a shirt which was worn by United legends such as George Best, Eric Cantona, and David Beckham. He certainly lived up to all the expectations and filled the void left behind by Beckham, his predecessor.

Not only did he live up to the expectations, he surpassed them, and etched his name into Manchester United history. He will be remembered forever by the fans as he moves on to play for the club he has dreamed of playing for since he was a boy.

Before his death, George Best said of Ronaldo, “There have been a few players described as the new George Best over the years, but this is the first time it has been a compliment to me.”

In his first season at United, he made an instant impact, picking up his first piece of silverware in the form of the FA Cup. From then on his career just got bigger and better, and in 2007, he became the first man since Andy Gray to win PFA Players Player of the Year and PFA Young Player of the Year awards. United also won their first title in four years, but the best was yet to come.

It was in the 2007-08 season, that Ronaldo excelled beyond belief, scoring 42 goals, setting a new club single-season scoring record by a midfielder and thus topped George Best’s forty-year-old total of 32 goals in the 1967–68 season, and fell just four short of Denis Law’s team-record mark of 46 in the 1963–64 season.

“Nothing can stop him. Probably the only way to do it is to kill him.”

Former team-mate Patrice Evra on Ronaldo in 2007.

Ronaldo was rewarded, by becoming the first winger to win the 2007–08 European Golden Shoe, finishing eight points ahead of Mallorca’s Dani Güiza.

He was also part of the United side that won the Champions League, beating Chelsea in that dramatic penalty shoot-out, to win their first European crown since that treble winning season of 1999. Ronaldo was on form that night scoring a fantastic header.

He was rewarded for this fine form, by being named FIFA World Player of the Year, and winning the Ballon d’Or as the European Player of the Year.

During his time over Manchester United, he has won many of these individual awards, along with three Premier League titles, an FA Cup, two league cups, a Community Shield, the Champions League and the FIFA World Club Championship.

He is not far short of irreplaceable in my view, scoring 68 goals in the last two seasons for United. But he is more than just a goal scorer. He’s a free-kick taker, a playmaker, a penalty taker, and can play in any attacking role that he gets on the field.

It certainly looks like Manchester United will start two men short next season, with Carlos Tevez also leaving the club. As a United fan, I would question Ferguson on the whole Tevez saga, but I have to say he has made the right decision to sell Ronaldo, irreplaceable or not, £80 million was just too good to turn his nose up at.

While it is easy to look at his moments of brilliance, they can nearly all be cancelled out by his moments of petulance, pure arrogance, and lack of respect for others. He is too much cock of his own walk at times. RTE pundit and self-confessed Ronaldo basher Eamon Dunphy referred to him once as ‘the modern day brat’, due to his diving.

Probably one of the most remembered moments will be ‘winkergate’ after team mate Wayne Rooney was sent-off when England faced Portugal in a World Cup quarter final in 2006, for stamping on Portugal’s defender Ricardo Carvalho.

It was speculated in the press that Ronaldo was involved in getting Rooney sent-off as he was seen winking to the Portuguese bench after the red card was shown, but this rumour turned out to be untrue. Nonetheless, it didn’t stop the English media unsettling Ronaldo, who considered leaving United after this.

“When they get back to the training ground, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rooney doesn’t stick one on him,” said BBC pundit turned manager Alan Shearer at the time of the incident.

There were also many incidents of diving, and in particular, this petulant sulk after being substituted in the Manchester derby, which he somehow could not believe. He threw away the tracksuit top, and retreated to the stand, and held his head in his hand for the remainder of the game. This was certainly not his finest hour.

Since Florentino Perez returned as club president of Real Madrid on June 1st, the Spaniard has brought in Brazilian playmaker Kaka for a then world record £56m, Ronaldo for a new world record £80m, before signing centre-back Raul Albiol from Valencia for £12m, to bring the total spend so far for the summer of 2009, to £148 million.

What is Ronaldo leaving behind though? A team that very nearly completed a clean sweep last season. Winning the World Club Championship, Carling Cup and a third Premier League title in a row, equalling Liverpool’s record of 18 league titles. They also came painstakingly close to reaching the FA Cup final, but the number of fixtures they had to endure proved to be too much, and this was shown in the Champions League final where they were outclassed by Barcelona. Little did we know that would be his last game for Manchester United.

In contrast, what did Real Madrid win last season? Nothing. Barcelona had their clean sweep, becoming the first ever Spanish side to complete the treble, winning La Liga, Copa del Rey and the Champions League.

It has to be said all eyes will be on Real Madrid next season, as they will have to justify this spending by producing the goods on the field, and equalling the success of their Catalan counterparts.

“We have to do in one year what we would normally do in three,” says Club President Florentino Perez.

Can they do it? It remains to be seen; money doesn’t buy you trophies, and this is certainly true in the case of Chelsea who have yet to win the Champions League in the Abramovich era.

Real Madrid have not won the Champions League since 2002, the Copa del Rey since 2004, and La Liga since 2008, and with the beginning of the Perez’s third era at the club they are facing an uphill battle, even though they now have one of the most expensive sides in the world.

Farewell Ronaldo, you said you wanted to go to Madrid, but did you have to go via Paris?

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