Cristiano Ronaldo sale to Manchester United earned Sporting only £6.5m

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Signing Cristiano Ronaldo from Sporting Lisbon in 2003 is seen as one of the best transfers made in Sir Alex Ferguson's 26 years in charge of Manchester United and it helped to boost their cash reserves by quite a bit in the end after he made an £80million switch to Real Madrid six years later.

However, the club that cultivated the young winger's raw talent before he made the move to the Premier League did not get such a great deal from selling the current best player in the world to the Old Trafford club.

In a recent interview with Portuguese newspaper Publico, Sporting's former head of communications, Carlos Severino, revealed that of the £13.7million Manchester United spent to purchase the now legendary goal machine the club received only around £6.5million.

Third party ownership has become a tricky issue in football now, with the Premier League and FA prohibiting any players registered playing for clubs in England, but it is the norm in Portugal and South America for companies to own a portion of a player's rights.

Sporting received just €8.25m [£6.5m] for the sale to Manchester United

Severino claims this was the case with Ronaldo in 2003 and that paying the third-party owners took up a significant chunk of the cash coming in from the Red Devils, not to mention the more usual fees for agents setting up the deal.

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"Sporting received just €8.25m [£6.5m] for the sale to Manchester United for the player who is currently the best in the world. It was poor business," he said in the interview.

"Manchester United paid €17.5m [£13.7m] for Ronaldo, but €2.5m [£2m] was used to pay commissions and €5.25m [£4.1m] went to fund [third-party ownership group] First Portuguese Football Players, which owned 35% of the player's rights."

Legend Forged

Such was the financial situation of Portuguese clubs at the time, there was very little chance of them holding onto a talent as promising as that of Ronaldo and getting the fee as high as £13.7million for an 18-year-old was good work from the club.

Seeing their best players leave before entering their prime is still the reality for Portuguese clubs

They then watched on as the crown jewel of their youth team blossomed into one of the most feared attackers in Europe at Manchester United, then step up a level with Real Madrid to the point where he looks set to break all of their scoring records, win a third Ballon d'Or and certainly be regarded as one of the greatest players ever once he retires.

Harsh Reality

Seeing their best players leave before entering their prime is still the reality for Portuguese clubs, as they are unlikely to ever match the financial might of the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid. However, third-party ownership appears, crucially, to have allowed them to hang on to the most promising youngsters for a few years longer.

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