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Man Utd should sell 'slave' Ronaldo

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Phil McNulty | 08:52 GMT, Friday, 11 July 2008


Cristiano Ronaldo will miss the start of the new season after undergoing complex surgery to remove the foot firmly jammed in his mouth.

Well it's his ankle actually, but there is clearly a more serious problem troubling Manchester United's superstar.

There must be after he aligned himself with Fifa president Sepp Blatter's assertion that there is "too much modern slavery" in football and his helpful suggestion that Manchester United should facilitate Ronaldo's dream to play for Real Madrid.

Let me make one thing clear - I shed not a single tear for Manchester United or Sir Alex Ferguson as they make their complaints about Real Madrid's campaign to sign Ronaldo.

United and Ferguson have relentlessly and ruthlessly pursued players from home and abroad in recent years - and plenty of clubs have tried and failed to keep their stars in the face of their attentions.

Whether we like it or not, this is the law of the jungle in modern-day football and United have used it to their advantage.

So this, in my opinion, is simply a case of the biter bit.

Indeed, if you listen hard enough, you might just hear the chuckling from those who inhabit Goodison Park, White Hart Lane, Villa Park and other places on a regular basis as United try to fight off Real's tried and trusted transfer methods.

United, however, have every right to tell Blatter to keep his nose out of their business after he effectively suggested every contract signed in football should actually be meaningless, although we all probably knew that anyway.

These are unwise words from the head of world football's ruling body - and the connotation of slavery will be distasteful to many, not just because the man and woman in the street see some of Blatter's "slaves" earning more than £100,000 a week.

It conjured up images of poor old Cristiano being held against his will be nasty Sir Alex, who will only pay him £100,000-a-week and drags him kicking and screaming to sign his latest multi-million pound endorsement.

And what have United's transfer dealings got to do with Blatter? Nothing.

We have to be cautious condemning Ronaldo's words. Yes, he did say Blatter was right on this issue, which was not clever in his current circumstances.

Cristiano Ronaldo

He did not, however, suggest that he regarded himself as a slave, even though that can understandably be read as the sub-plot behind his support for Fifa's top man, another manouevre to ensure his bandwagon to Madrid keeps rolling.

What it should do, though, is crystallise the thinking about Ronaldo's future inside Old Trafford.

Has he really acted like someone whose heart it still at United? Will he be the same brilliant Ronaldo if he is effectively forced to stay?

My answer to both of those questions comes firmly in the negative.

United should now disturb his convalescence and get straight answers out of someone who has been as elusive in clarifying his future as he was in evading defences last season.

He has played everyone like a priceless Stradivarius since the last penalty was taken in the Champions League final. It has cast a cloud over what should have been a summer of unrelenting triumph for United after winning the Premier League and Champions League.

My take on it is that United should let him have his move, while dredging every last penny out of Real Madrid and their president Ramon Calderon.

If United can prise £70m out of Real for Ronaldo, then that can easily be painted as a victory by Ferguson. It would actually provide the ultimate proof that football has finally gone mad and United will be the financial beneficiaries of the lunacy.

And here is a theory that has not been explored enough - the theory that United might actually survive and prosper without Ronaldo.

Old Trafford's walls will not crumble if Ronaldo leaves. They were champions before he arrived and they will be again after he leaves.

Ferguson is smart enough to make the most of the huge injection of money into his transfer fund, and wise enough to know a sulking Ronaldo hankering for The Bernabeu is not an asset worth having.

Ronaldo would be a loss to United - no-one would deny that - but his departure would not turn them from champions into also-rans.

Ferguson may feel losing Ronaldo after such a public fight to keep him would represent a loss of face - but £70m might make them feel just a little better.


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