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Cristiano Ronaldo and the fake Madrid circus



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When would be the ideal time for Manchester United to sell Cristiano Ronaldo? Right before Euro 08? After it? Next year? In 5 years?

One feels that if Ferguson met Calderon and Schuster in a jungle he’d club them to death. He’s not the only one thinking that – hordes of Manchester United fans confused and outraged by the shameless and desperate courting of Cristiano Ronaldo by Real Madrid would be glad to inflict physical harm to those who wish to take away what they hold dear.

It’s our emotional attachment to football, you see. It’s what supposedly makes us human (the emotions, not football).

Manchester United don’t want to sell Ronaldo. Real Madrid, drowning in their fetish to buy the best players so that they can hang on to the glitz and glamour of being the best club in the world, will do anything to get him over. This aggression is Real Madrid’s way – easily stereotyped as caveman machismo where you took what you wanted and beat up whoever crossed your path. Jungle rules, except that when no one else plays by those rules you are by default the winner.

In the long run, Real Madrid will win in their quest to unsettle Ronaldo and get him out of Manchester United. Barcelona are also interested but Madrid know that their dominance on Spanish football is higher than it has been in the last 5 years and this is as good a chance as they’ll get to ensure that Ronaldo comes to Madrid and not Barcelona. So…push, push, push, you bitches, push!

As for United, they will hardly fall apart if Ronaldo was taken out of their equation, but when you’re playing a long-term strategy for building a dynasty that wins many titles, Ronaldo is type of player you want to keep on-board. He has matured rapidly this season and is increasingly the match-winner that he’s expected to be, not to mention the scorer of important goals in important games.

But this all Madrid and United – what about the player himself?

For starters, read / hear the full interviews that he gives. You’ll see that most of it is about how much he wants to stay, how he loves Old Trafford and his friends there. A little bit is about ‘never knowing what the future holds’. I’d expect an extremely ambitious player to say that. He wants to be the best and play in the best team in the world, and if that doesn’t happen for him then he’ll jump.

In this way he’s a bit similar to Nistelrooy (who wanted to walk out a season before he was shipped out). Fabregas, the other young prodigy that gets regularly linked to Madrid, is less flashy but equally driven and ambitious. Both have time on their side so they’d be in England for next season, but if either team’s form was to dip for a long period of time, they’d jump.

Also, the press have turned this into a nightmare for United fans. Ronaldo’s chances of leaving have been artificially inflated by inaccurate and one-sided press coverage. When he says he’s staying, they don’t give it that much air. When he says the future is open-ended, they go into a fit and give it front-page status.

It’s bollocks.

What do you think really happens at Old Trafford? That Ronaldo says he wants to leave and Queiroz / Ferguson bribe him with toffees, ice cream and poontang? There’s a limit to which the board will go to in accommodating Ronaldo if he asks for higher wages, and despite his stellar performances in the last season he has only matched the investment made in him, not exceeded it. Perhaps if he had 1-2 more seasons this good, he would qualify for a pay raise, but you don’t renegotiate a new contract every year.

But forget the board, let’s get back to Fergie. Do you seriously think that Fergie will force a player to stay? 2 years of chasing, and Madrid have nothing on Ronaldo. NOTHING. Saying that he wants to play in Spain some day is like me saying that I’d like to tap Scarlett Johansson one day. If I got the opportunity out of the blue I’d take it, but if I was waking up to Marisa Miller and was confronted with the choice between her and Scarlett, with the obvious condition that it would be one or the other, who would I choose?

Personally I’d choose neither, because Scarlett is too demanding and Marisa is too focused on her career, but this isn’t about me…

To bring things back to football, unless you’re going to tell me that Ronaldo was born a Real Madrid fan (the journalists should go question his childhood friends now) and has ‘Los Merengues’ tattooed on his rear end and his wardrobe consists of ‘madridista’ underwear, there’s no reason for him to leave United and go to Madrid.

But he might, and the exclusive focus on that (as opposed to the far greater likelihood that he’ll stay) is driving fans crazy. Pretty soon (if they haven’t already) fans will begin to question Ronaldo’s loyalty and his inability to say no to Madrid (he probably has several times, but no one hears about that). And then this angst will grow, to the point where people will celebrate when he finally leaves (the way Arsenal fans celebrated Henry’s departure). Henry’s departure was a painful choice, I don’t expect Ronaldo’s choice to be much easier.

It would be an unfortunate way to remember a player, and it is an unfortunate climate in which to be a football fan. As much as we want to eliminate diving and ensure that the right decisions are taken on the pitch and that the game is played in good spirit (no stomping, slapping or spitting please), we also need to look at the behavior of clubs and agents (a whole different can of worms – the topic, not agents) and find a solution.

And what are they doing?


– are trying to make sure that all international football played under UEFA’s umbrella is NOT shown on free to air TV (how can they charge a high price for the TV rights otherwise).
– making changes to how the Champions League and UEFA Cup are structured in a measure to expand their target audience (more money), create more interesting matches (more viewers = more money) and various other small measures to ensure that as much money can be made as possible.
– while bitching about how much more money the Premier League is making.


– falsely accusing players of trying to injure others in an attempt to win the PR vote.
– trying to influence African football to accommodate Europe’s elite.
– are bankrolling a PR-mission called South Africa 2010 (I support the event but not the motives behind it).
– trying to count the money they’re making
– trying to bully the English FA (berating them for greed) in fear that their authority (to determine the future of football) will be undermined.
– trying to implement quotas that promote nationalism but will eventually weaken the club-system and strengthen international teams, making international football a more attractive product for advertisers.

Surely far more important concerns than dealing with the welfare of the players and the fans.

The really sad part in all this is this – while many people believe strongly in the magic of Real Madrid, the circus-like atmosphere that has existed around Madrid for the last few years shows a very ugly side to the club. The glorious picture painted is not matched by the dirty actions of their people. The past glories seem a distant memory, the present tenuously crafted in midst of turmoil, the future promises as fake and as contrived as the club’s sincerity towards the good of football.

One starts to doubt the magic. One starts to wonder if all this that is Madrid is fake. That our nostalgia is as fake as their pretensions to greatness. The only thing that saves Madrid is the football on the pitch, and that has more often than not been top notch. The rest feels fake, a house of cards built on empty promises and even emptier souls.

Will this fake Madrid take Ronaldo away from Manchester United? Time will tell, but I hope it is on Manchester United terms, and it is for Ronaldo’s good.