Manchester United believe their best chance to sign Cristiano Ronaldo came and went last summer, with the Daily Mail reporting that the Red Devils think the Portuguese superstar would have completed a sensational £60m return to Old Trafford if Sir Alex Ferguson was still manager.
Ronaldo reportedly made it clear to United chiefs that he was unhappy at Madrid more than 12 months ago, back when contract talks at Madrid had stalled.
United were still adjusting to life under David Moyes and chasing the transfer targets that new boss David Moyes had identified though, which contributed to a chain of events that saw Ronaldo sign a £288,000-a-week contract that ties him to Madrid until 2018.
Red Devils fans are still holding out hope that Ronaldo can be brought back to the Premier League next year, but Perez holds all the cards and United are conscious that they were effectively used as a pawn in Madrid's contract talks just over 12 months ago.
Fergie's retirement cost United Ronaldo deal?
The Mail believe that United are very sceptical about the merits of committing an eye-watering £60m spend for a star who turns 30 next February, particularly off the back of a club-record £150m spend during the last transfer window.
That stance would be entirely different if Ferguson was still in the United hotseat though, because of his bond with Ronaldo and belief that you could build a team around a player of that quality regardless of the price tag.
Club insiders believe Ferguson would have insisted there was room for Ronaldo and persuaded the feared forward he should return to Manchester last year, the mere fact that didn't happen showing just how much has changed at the Theatre of Dreams over the last 15 months.
Current state of play
United fans have made it very clear they want Ronaldo back and flew a banner expressing that desire over El Madrigal while Real Madrid played Villareal last weekend, but unless Los Blancos chief Perez has a change of heart there won't be another blockbuster transfer involving the two teams anytime soon.
Madrid are the ultimate transfer pragmatists and once they feel any slight decline in Ronaldo's incredible standard of performances they could be persuaded to sell, but not on the cheap that's for sure.
Van Gaal and United transfer chiefs now have a serious question to answer, can they justify the outlay to bring Ronaldo back or would the deal represent his emotional tie to the club clouding sound judgement?
Madrid will not entertain Ronaldo's exit this season, so for now it's time for United to concentrate on attainable transfer targets rather than the one deal that every Red Devils supporter wants to materialise.