In the bleak midwinter of his last year at Manchester United Cristiano Ronaldo, along with Wayne Rooney, sprung from the bench at Pride Park to warm up during the second half of a cup game. Rooney’s name was sung to the stars. Ronaldo barely garnered a whimper.
The Old Trafford faithful had endured the long tease with Real Madrid the season before, when Sir Alex Ferguson persuaded the boy to resist the overtures of the Bernabeu in favour of United. Six months down the line, even after Ronaldo has declared “that dream is dead”, the speculation was mounting again.
Everybody knew he was going. What they could not abide was the distasteful maneuvering around the edges. The lure of Madrid for a kid born and raised in the culture of Iberia was understandable. It was the team that dominated his dreams, the ultimate stop on his football journey. When David Beckham headed south to the Spanish capital he left reluctantly and with a heavy heart. It was the Ronaldo tap dance that offended.
He has subsequently spoken warmly about the club that brought him to global prominence. The rhetoric has triggered an upwards reconsideration among the majority of United fans, who talk fondly once more about the player who stirred hearts for six fantastic seasons at Old Trafford.
For Ronaldo read Luka Modric and Robin van Persie. At least Modric has returned to training. Very good of him. In the timeless lingua franca of the transfer tale Van Persie informed Arsenal after the Euros that the club’s ambition did not match his own, as it seemed to in the years of injury and underachievement at the Emirates.
And with his declaration the love for Van Persie drained from the Emirates. We understand that romance died long ago in this game. What the fans need is honesty. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger declared yesterday that “we will do what is in the best interests of the club.” The player therefore is entitled to do what is in his best interests, and in this era of football horse trading has significant power.
Van Persie believes he is worth more than Arsenal are prepared to pay. Fine. Say that, but don’t string along those whose investment in the club is unconditional and absolute. The role of the supporters in making a club what it is deserves greater respect.
Not to worry, the next Modric, Van Persie, Ronaldo is only a Brazilian deal away. Or is it? Oscar has delayed his move to Chelsea until after the Olympic football tournament, by which time he might be worth a few zeros more. And Lucas Moura’s future at Manchester United has stalled as buyer and seller haggle over the fee.
Sir Alex Ferguson baulked at the £6 million agent fee paid by Chelsea in the transfer of Eden Hazard from Lille. That already looks a bad miss for United. The price is the price however you carve it up. Fergie let Ronaldinho and Arjen Robben slip through his fingers to Barcelona and Chelsea respectively. He could not see the value in £12 million for Mesut Ozil before he went to Madrid.
And now Lucas Moura’s £30 million tag offends. History suggests United should stump up the fee. It’s a business after all. One good year kissing the badge on a United shirt would double the price on his head, and the fans would have a new hero to worship. While it lasts.