Madrid: Real Madrid must overcome the challenges of Spain’s tax laws and Cristiano Ronaldo’s rocketing ego to secure the world’s most expensive player to a new contract and banish any prospect of the former Manchester United forward returning to the Premier League.
Ronaldo, whose £80 million transfer from United to Real in June 2009 remains the biggest in football history, has placed his Real future in doubt by adding fuel to reports of his discontent at the Bernabeu with his bizarre behaviour during and after Sunday’s 3-0 La Liga victory over Granada.
The Portuguese forward refused to celebrate either of the two goals he scored - which moved him to 10th on Real’s all-time goalscoring list with 150 - before delivering what appears to have been a coded message to the club’s president, Florentino Perez, over his current unhappiness with the Spanish champions.
“I’m sad - when I don’t celebrate goals it’s because I’m not happy,” Ronaldo said. “It’s a professional thing. Real Madrid know why I’m not happy.” Intriguingly, Ronaldo’s comments now seem to have been premeditated, rather than a hot-headed reaction moments after the game, with the player’s agent, Jorge Mendes, insisting that he was fully aware of Ronaldo’s issues prior to his public revelation. In a statement, Mendes said: “Ronaldo’s comments are based on things I am aware of and he is at liberty to divulge them. The comments have not surprised me and certainly not upset me. Those who know the relationship I have with Ronaldo know that he can always count on my solidarity.”
While it would be simple to suggest that Ronaldo’s relationship with Real is now at breaking point, few in Spain expect him to leave the club. Alfredo Relano, editor of Spanish newspaper AS, said: “He [Ronaldo] wants more money. A while ago he was talking about a contract for life. But the price of a superstar has gone up after all the goals he has scored and after all Madrid have won.”
For all the temptation to picture Ronaldo in a Manchester City shirt, the only prospect of that happening any time soon is if the 27 year-old exchanges jerseys with former United team-mate Carlos Tevez when the two clubs meet in the Champions League later this month. With Spanish media reporting that Real have a euros 1 billion buy-out clause inserted into Ronaldo’s £10 million-a-year contract, which does not expire until June 2015, even City, backed by the supreme wealth of owner Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed al Nahyan, will not be pursuing Ronaldo. As for United, no ‘first refusal’ option was applied to the deal which took him to Real three years ago, so they will not be at the front of the queue to resign him in January.
But while super-wealthy clubs such as Chelsea, Paris St Germain and Anzhi Makhachkala will no doubt be linked with Ronaldo in the coming weeks and months, the reality of his pointed remarks on Sunday is that they relate to the player’s determination to force Real to reward his status as, in Ronaldo’s eyes, one of the most iconic figures in world football. Real’s problem is the abolition of the so-called ‘Beckham Law,’ a 2005 tax loophole which granted a favourable tax rate to highly paid foreign workers.
Without it, Ronaldo faces a tax bill of about 40 per cent on any new contract and, with claims in Spain that he expects to be the world’s best-paid player - currently the £325,000-a-week Samuel Eto’o at Anzhi - Real would face a huge financial outlay to ensure that Ronaldo gets what he wants.
Perez is wary of breaking the bank to appease Ronaldo, whose relationship with his teammates is understood to have soured in recent months. There have even been claims that he is no longer on speaking terms with defender Marcelo after he claimed goalkeeper Iker Casillas, and not Ronaldo, deserved to be named as world footballer of the year.
According the Madrid-based newspaper Marca, Ronaldo has told Perez that he does not feel ‘wanted’ at the club, a claim seemingly contradicted by Kaka, Real’s Brazilian forward. “All I want to say to him is that he has the whole support of the team,” Kaka said.
“We need Cristiano and we need him to be happy.” Ronaldo’s histrionics are nothing new. At United, he infamously reacted to being substituted against City by throwing his tracksuit top to the floor and once even walked off the pitch and ‘substituted’ himself against Sunderland in December 2008 due to an apparent injury. He was accused of having the “attitude of a true diva” by former Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn following a 1-0 defeat against the Germans this summer. The sense in Madrid that Ronaldo needs be shown some love by Madrid, but as with any highly strung ‘diva,’ it will come at a heavy price.