Why Ronaldo is leaving Manchester for Madrid
The Ronaldo deal is a classic case of pragmatism meeting populism.
Pragmatism on the part of Manchester United, and populism on that of Real - though Madrid's plan will also be laced with hard-headed projections of the number of shirts Ronaldo and Kaka will be able to sell for the Spanish club.
Returning president Florentino Perez's search for new Galacticos is clearly driven by the desire to avenge the humiliation inflicted on Real by Barcelona this season, but the merchandising aspect should not be ignored.
Back in 2003, when another United Galactico Beckham went to the Bernabeu, Real earned US$600m in sale of shirts and other merchandising, increasing profits by 137% in the four seasons Beckham was there.
Professor Simon Chadwick, sports business expert at Coventry University, says: "Ronaldo can be viewed in the same bracket at Beckham when it comes to global marketing impact."
"Even if Real sign one or two of the other stars, there would be a real focus on Ronaldo and Kaka's talents on the pitch, and also their brand off it. That will pay for the transfers many times over, even with the bumper salary package."
United have made it clear that this sale was done on the say-so of Sir Alex Ferguson. One of the remarkable features of the controversial Glazer takeover, one freely admitted by the United managmenet, is how liberated Ferguson now feels with the Americans in control.
Back in the 1980s when he arrived at United, he was surprised to be told by then-chairman Martin Edwards that United didn't have big money to spend on players. Ferguson always pushed against the restraints put on him by Edwards and the plc - he now finds the lines of authority in control exercised by the Americans much easier.
The Americans, having loaded the club with debt to finance their purchase, have run it with a cold, calculating search for increasing revenue that has rarely been seen in the British game.
Contrast the way they have handled this sale with the drama that preceded the sale of Beckham to Real six years ago.
Normally in a transfer, it is the buying club that trumpets it, with the selling club pretending the sale has not yet been done.
But today Madrid had a bank holiday, and have said very little, while United put out the announcement on their website as if they were getting rid of a subsidiary that had outlived its purpose.
It reflects the nature of the Glazer-run club. The Glazers will have driven a hard bargain with Madrid but what will be interesting to know is how the Madrid payment of £80m is structured.
Back in 1999, when Madrid bought Nicolas Anelka from Arsenal for £23m, the payment was staged over several years, and Arsenal had some problems getting all the money.
It is unlikely United will have cut Madrid much slack on this, and while Madrid will not have paid on the nail (only Roman Abramovich did that in his first year of ownership of Chelsea), the payment terms will have been tightly drawn.
Although United insist this was a footballing deal, not a commercial one, despite the heavy borrowing the Glazers have made, the money will surely come in very handy for them.
They make their own television deals, something United cannot do, and being the club of Castillian Spain, they have the support of institutions, including those of the state, that United cannot call on. It is worth noting that while they also have huge debts, it is mostly from local banks, not international institutions as is the case of United.
There is no denying the huge gamble Perez has taken but that is inevitable in a members' club when a populist president returns and has to fulfil his manifesto commitments. Such a situation is inconceivable in Britain.