Another day in the saga and another voice urging Cristiano Ronaldo to leave Manchester United for Real Madrid – yesterday, however, even the 23-year-old with the king-size ego would have listened. Zinedine Zidane, for whom Real paid a record £45m fee in 2001, said that Ronaldo would be ideal for the Spanish champions.
Ronaldo is set to see United's medical staff today about the foot operation that he needs this summer and a statement on his future is expected in the next two days. With United in little doubt that he is about to make a robust statement about leaving Old Trafford there is hope at least that the saga is coming to an end. United have been unwavering in their stance that the player will not be leaving the club.
"If he will come to Madrid it will be quite an amount, they are ready to pay more than for me and this will lift the weight from my shoulders," Zidane said. "He had a great season, a league and Champions League winner, and I think the fact that he and Portugal got knocked out at the quarter-finals doesn't mean anything because they were up against a great Germany team.
"It doesn't say anything about the merits during the year. He is not scared of his new Real Madrid engagement and every time they wanted good players they got them. Now it depends on his personal plans, if he wants to play there he will play there."
The question for United will be how far Ronaldo is prepared to go in order to get his move or whether he is angling for the promise of a new contract later in the season. The feeling at United is that the giddy atmosphere of Euro 2008, where Ronaldo's every whim has been indulged by the Portugal camp, has been conducive to unsettling the player. Although his first ambiguous pronouncement on his career came during the club's Champions League press day in May, United believe that once the player is less accessible they will be better-placed to control the situation.
The pressure from Real has been relentless none the less with their manager, Bernd Schuster, saying yesterday that his club had accepted that Ronaldo would cost more than they have ever paid for a player before. "For a player of his kind of level, we must pay what is necessary," he told German television. "Because, for us what is most important is to win the Champions League and he can help us achieve that. When you have a player of such quality nobody wants to let him go."