Hold the phone. Didn't the summer transfer window just close? Why then are we all of a sudden inundated with rumours about Cristiano Ronaldo?
If reports are to be believed - which they almost certainly are not - the Portuguese ace is hankering after a return to Manchester United, most likely within the next 12 months or so. Chelsea would also like to sign him, as would Paris Saint-Germain.
There's more than a few things troubling about these rumours. Why did they start just after the summer transfer window slammed shut? Why were Chelsea's name thrown in the mix despite the fact it's fairly apparent that Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho seem to dislike each other?
To try to get to the bottom of all this we need to go back to 2012, when the first seeds about Ronaldo's future were sown. Back then, when Mourinho was still in charge at the Bernabeu, he claimed to be "sad" over a perceived lack of support in his bid to beat Lionel Messi to the Ballon d'Or - something he achieved a year later - while it was also claimed he was annoyed over the fact that a report at the time revealed that he was only the 10th best-paid player in the world.
That issue was soon remedied and he is now the highest paid player, earning even more than Messi who also recently got a pay rise. When you add in the fact that he's etched his name into football folklore by helping Madrid win the Champions League for a record 10th time while breaking the record for most goals in a single campaign all should be rosy, right?
Well perhaps not. 2012 seemed to mark the turning point in Ronaldo's relationship with Real Madrid, from love affair to business agreement. Now the rumours are as plentiful as they are inaccurate; his agent wants to move him on, he wants £500,000-per-week, he is dreaming of going back to Old Trafford, he is angry that Angel Di Maria was sold etc etc.
In truth, the vast majority of these rumours can be dismissed pretty quickly. Firstly none of the above came from credible sources; admittedly there are no certainties but the silence from the broadsheet newspapers and reporters covering the Manchester beat is pretty telling.
A certain amount of high-profile figures have commented on the potential move; Gary Neville, Ramon Calderon and Angel di Maria have all added fuel to the fire by suggesting a move would make sense - but it's easy to overstate the emphasis placed on an answer given by someone merely responding to a question from a journalist.
Di Maria in particular probably didn't give a second though to what he was saying when he suggested Ronaldo could be unhappy. Calderon is a slightly different case in that he tends to comment on every major transfer saga and has tried to stir things up on a regular basis for Real Madrid since he was forced to resign in 2009 over presidential vote rigging accusations. Ultimately these people are adding to the bluster, but that can't detract from the cold hard facts.
Ronaldo is one year into a five-year contract, which happens to be the most lucrative in world football. He is at the wealthiest club who have no reason to sell their most prized asset, both on and off the pitch. He is also winning trophies, and despite their slow start, is surrounded by the best players in the world.
From a Manchester United or Chelsea perspective, putting a lot of their resources into a deal for a 29-year-old who has had problems with his knees of late seems foolhardy, especially as they can't guarantee Champions League football at Old Trafford these days.
Ronaldo himself batted his eyelids towards Manchester United recently by "admitting" that he'd like to return to his former club one day. He's said this countless times before when pressed by journalists - after all it's the easiest thing to say - but there is a suggestion that the foundations could be being laid for a dramatic return.
Probably not next year, perhaps the year after. Madrid have their replacement in Gareth Bale already (and would likely reinvest the £60 million they would get from either Chelsea or Manchester United), and the Red Devils would get one of the most marketable faces on the planet plus one heck of a player, while appeasing the fans.
The recent speculation smacks of a bit of posturing from the Ronaldo camp; he appears to be keeping his options open, while making sure Madrid know just how valuable he is and how he could find a new club at the drop of the hat. He is ideally positioned given his age that his next contract will probably be his last big one so he knows he can play Madrid and Manchester United against one another. His love for the Red Devils is genuine and a return would certainly appeal, while the alternative of playing into his early 30's as the world's best paid player isn't too shabby either.
So Manchester United or Chelsea fans, it's probably not wise to expect Ronaldo to rock up any time soon. Give it a few years and you never know. and as a word of warning, don't always believe what you read.
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