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Ronaldo: From Lisbon to Madrid, via Manchester

June 12, 2009 13:23 IST

Ronaldo: From Lisbon to Madrid, via Manchester

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Few players in world football fit the Galactico description better than Cristiano Ronaldo, and the Portuguese box of tricks appears to be on the verge of re-locating to his natural habitat at Real Madrid.

The Spanish club's world record 80 million pounds ($131.2 million) bid for Manchester United's goal machine is further proof that returning president Florentino Perez has set his heart on another dream team.

United, who fended off the Spanish club's interest in the World and European Player of the Year 12 months ago, gave the nine-times European champions the go-ahead in their second attempt.

With the 24-year-old Ronaldo, a player who polarises opinion more than any other in world football, it appears to be a marriage made in heaven.

For his staggering outlay, Perez will get spectacular goals, dazzling footwork, showbiz and plenty of ego.

While devout christian Kaka, who joined Real this week for around 70 million euros ($98.23 million), mixes his genius with a healthy dose of humility, Ronaldo still gives the impression that he would be happiest playing on a pitch surrounded by mirrors.


Image: Cristiano Ronaldo
Photographs: Reuters
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A replacement for Beckham

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When Ronaldo joined United in 2003 from Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon as a relatively unknown 18-year-old, he was handed the unenviable label of being the man to replace David Beckham.

While former England skipper Beckham headed off to join the likes of Raul, Roberto Carlos and Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid, Madeira-born Ronaldo set about replacing Beckham as English football's most high-profile player.

Initially he was lambasted for his obsession with fancy footwork and party-trick football which often promised much more than it actually delivered.

His penchant for theatrical tumbles at the slightest challenge also gave fuel to the boo boys.

His role in getting England's Wayne Rooney, his United team mate, sent off at the 2006 World Cup finals cast him as a pantomime villain and tested the patience of the Old Trafford faithful.


Image: Cristiano Ronaldo
Photographs: Reuters
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A complete player at Man United

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But rather than run away to pastures new Ronaldo, helped by manager Alex Ferguson, developed into the complete player -- and it was not long before he began to devastate defences in England and across Europe.

A goal tally of 118 is a stunning return for a player who does not even play as a striker. A natural winger, Ronaldo has license to roam and can pop up in attack or in central midfield.

His pace is electrifying and shooting prowess extraordinary -- witness the stupendous goal he scored against Porto in the Champions League quarter-final this year, an away goal which enabled United scrape through in a tough tie.

Aerial ability is also another major strength.

His goals have helped United win three consecutive Premier League titles as well as last year's Champions League when he scored in the final against Chelsea.

In the 2007-08 season he scored 42 goals which topped the previous club record for a midfielder held by George Best. Last season he managed 26 goals, taking his tally for United to 118 in 292 appearances.


Image: Cristiano Ronaldo
Photographs: Reuters
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One of English football's greatest imports

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When Ronaldo's move to Real eventually goes through, it would leave a giant sized void at United -- but with 80 million pounds in the bank, the club will probably need to make two big signings to replace what Ronaldo provided.

The Portuguese player's sulking fits when things do not go his way, and ability to pretend that his 40-metre free kick rockets are just run of the mill events, make him a hard player to embrace 100 percent.

Even his fiercest critics, however, will miss the spectacular and unpredictable ability that marked Ronaldo out as one of English football's greatest imports.

United meanwhile might look to Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery as an obvious replacement,  although the Frenchman is also on the radar of Real Madrid, who seem intent on spending their way back to what they believe to be their rightful place at the top of world football.

 


Image: Cristiano Ronaldo
Photographs: Reuters
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United left with 80 million pounds dilemma

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Once Manchester United have recovered from the realisation that their most prized asset no longer wants to play for them, they must decide what best to do with the 80 million pounds they will get for Ronaldo.

It is quite a U-turn for Old Trafford officials that they are now willing to sell Ronaldo to one of their biggest European rivals, especially as manager Alex Ferguson said earlier this season he "would not sell a virus" to the Spanish club.

Then again, they have probably grown impatient with the World and European Footballer of the Year, particularly after he again made his feelings known that he wants a move to Spain, the club he says he always dreamt of playing for.

Ronaldo's questioning of Ferguson's tactics after their Champions League final defeat by Barcelona last month would also have been hard for the Scot to stomach.

The world record transfer fee will certainly lessen the blow of losing Ronaldo, although the tricky part is how they replace a player whose goals have underpinned three successive Premier League titles.

But the real void will be felt in the Premier League itself, which will be poorer for the loss of the World and European Footballer of the Year. Ronaldo is one of its biggest marketing tools, the perfect package of sporting brilliance, theatrics and personality.

Some of the game's biggest names are already being linked with a move to Old Trafford, although whether Ferguson gets to spend all the 80 million on players is unclear.


Image: Cristiano Ronaldo and Sir Alex Ferguson
Photographs: Reuters
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Ronaldo's sale helps Man U lessen financial burden

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The club's American owners could decide that the most sensible option, given the world's current economic scenario, would be to use the fee to lessen the impact of the club's debt.

The last available accounts show that United owe 69 million pounds in interest for this banking year alone.

That is almost the identical amount of profit the club are making on Ronaldo -- they paid Portugal's Sporting just 12.2 million pounds in 2003 -- so his sale could essentially help lessen this year's financial burden in one swoop.

However, that move would undoubtedly provoke huge disappointment from United's fans who will want the money to be spent on maintaining their dominance on the pitch.

However, the overwhelming priority for most of United's fans will be for the club to finally sign the popular striker Carlos Tevez on a long-term deal.

United paid 10 million pounds two seasons ago to have the Argentine on-loan but have stalled at paying the outstanding 22 million pounds to make the deal permanent.

But a bigger question will be pertaining to how Ronaldo would fit into Madrid's scheme of things.

Will a midfield comprising of Kaka, Ronaldo, Schneider and Van der Vaart be able to shield a porous defence further weakened by the departure of Fabio Cannavaro?

And will Ronaldo be as successful in Madrid as he was in Manchester?

This are questions which only time will answer.


Image: Cristiano Ronaldo
Photographs: Reuters
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