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A guide to soap opera

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Planet Futbol producer Luis Miguel Echegaray explains why he thinks Christiano Ronaldo will end up in Manchester after he announced he wants to leave Real Madrid.
Time_Sports

We can say with certainty that Cristiano Ronaldo is soccer’s biggest star and that Real Madrid is the sport’s most glamorous club, but everything else surrounding those two and their public soap opera right now is open to debate.

Ronaldo, according to multiple news media reports out of Europe, is so furious at a perceived lack of support from his employers after Spanish authorities alleged the star failed to pay $16.5 million in taxes, that he wants out.

Out of Madrid, out of Spain’s La Liga, out of the $118 million, five-year contract he signed in November, and back into the welcoming arms of the English Premier League’s Manchester United, the team that sold him to Madrid for a $105 million transfer fee in 2009.

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That sum would seem like pocket change this time, even with Ronaldo now 32. Soccer’s money train only gathers speed and exponentially outstrips inflation. Marca, a newspaper that effectively serves as Madrid’s club mouthpiece, revealed that the ownership would be prepared to let Ronaldo go if another team came in with an offer in excess of $400 million. That’s a non-starter, though something significantly in excess of the $125 million world record fee United paid for Paul Pogba last summer is possible.

If Ronaldo truly wants to go, it could certainly happen. United would pony up for the chance to become instantly relevant once again, having finished in every position between fourth and seventh over the past four EPL campaigns.

The relationship between United head coach Jose Mourinho and Ronaldo, which soured during Mourinho’s ill-fated final season as Madrid boss, could be patched up without too much fuss.

Madrid could move on knowing they got the best years out of Ronaldo, landing three UEFA Champions League crowns during his time there. Even as Ronaldo stewed this past week, Madrid’s internal machinations were working on a plot to land the French wunderkind who could be his long-term successor, Kylian Mbappe.

The timing might even be seen as neat. Straightforward, right?

Not so much.

That is because the true intentions behind all this are anyone’s guess. Of course, it is possible that Ronaldo might really want to go. The tax situation might have irked him so deeply that getting out and moving on seems like the only appropriate course.

Or, like so many ultra-wealthy superstar athletes before him, he could be trying to manipulate a situation for his own benefit. If it is all a ruse, which one is it?

Is it the money-grabbing variety, whereby Ronaldo wants to squeeze some more cash and a better deal out of his current team? It could be. With those back taxes and the reality that from this point forward his image rights income if he remains in Spain will be taxed at a more punitive rate, it is feasible that he is looking for another bump in pay to help offset the difference.

Another possibility is that this is PR spin, cooked up by Ronaldo and his agent Jorge Mendes, and designed to take the focus away from what is going on in the legal channels. Ronaldo makes millions from a vast assortment of endorsements around the world, many of which rely on his image being unblemished. What better to deflect attention from the tax case than by sparking a summer of conjecture about whether he will stay or go, and where he might go and so on.

Perhaps it is a combination of the two, or perhaps Ronaldo, who has always been puzzled by the way that Madrid fans have failed to warm to him despite his incredible on-field achievements, is looking for a little love and attention and to be told he is needed and wanted. Such is one theory put forward in the Spanish press though if so, it seems like an awful lot of trouble to go to in order to secure yourself a few metaphorical hugs.

Portugal is in Russia now for the Confederations Cup, which serves as the warm-up for next summer’s World Cup. By then, Ronaldo will still likely be among the best players in the world, and undoubtedly remain its most famous. What club he will be at when he tries to take his national team to the title? We’ll have to wait and see on that, as there are plenty more episodes of the soap opera still to run.



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