According to a report by Miguel Delaney for ESPN, Manchester United are continuing with their pursuit to bring Cristiano Ronaldo back to Old Trafford. Delaney -- who has displayed in the past that he's well-sourced at the club -- has been on this story for awhile. Back in January, he filed this report explaining much of what became obvious: that Ronaldo was unhappy at Real Madrid and that he might fancy a return to United. An Old Trafford source apparently responded to those developments this way at that time: "the situation can change but it's one to keep an eye on".
Okay, that comment isn't really much. Perhaps, though, it's akin to being told that an old flame that you're still not over -- one whom you assumed has moved on and is happy -- isn't actually happy and that they might be open to the idea of reconnecting with you.
In late April, Delaney then filed this report on the matter. The key points from it were these:
* United felt that an offer in the region of £50-70 million might get a deal done while they would also look to offset some of that cost by adding a player to the deal. Madrid, though, apparently ruled out Wayne Rooney in such a scenario, but they might be open to bringing Nani and/or Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) to the Bernabeu.
* United's main commercial partners were also approached about funding a deal. Chevrolet expressed interest, but Nike was reluctant. United, though, were increasingly gaining confidence that they could fund a deal and part of this is because of the Premier League's new lucrative TV deal and their own improving financial situation.
* Ronaldo's own refusal to sign a new contract at Madrid -- he has two years remaining on his current one -- has strengthened his position in this situation, and that of United's as well. Even if Paris Saint-Germain offered Ronaldo higher wages, he's thought to still favor a United move. Of course, though, United probably have to put in a competitive transfer fee offer if Madrid were ever to accept.
Also in late April, Neil Custis wrote this piece for the Sun (I'll let you form your own opinions on this publication) and perhaps the main takeaway was this:
'United - who sold Ron to Real for £80million in 2009 - are willing to offer £65m plus a player - most likely Nani - if they get the green light from Ronaldo's people that the player wants a move. But they have now been panicked by PSG's move. A United source said: "United are not happy now PSG have made their move with a substantial offer. They will not give up, however, and have told Ronaldo's agent of their intent." The Qatari backed big spenders from France are understood to have offered Real £80m. They would also top any wage offer by United who would make him joint top earner at Old Trafford with Wayne Rooney on £250,000 a week.'
Perhaps then, this was akin to the two old lovers realizing that there's a mutual desire to re-unite -- and this could have been enhanced by their brief UEFA Champions League encounter in February and March when that old flame may have been re-ignited. Love, though, is never simple and there can be some practical barriers: in this case, money and Ronaldo's current partner (Real Madrid) who are not ready to let go of their Portuguese prince. Then there's also those Qatari courters stationed at 'La Ville-Lumière'.
Fast forward to now, and apparently "Manchester United are refusing to give up on the return of Cristiano Ronaldo this summer, and have assigned significant extra resources to try to make the move happen."
These are the main points from Delaney's latest report:
* Ronaldo has reconsidered a United return because of Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement while Madrid are very determined to get the player locked up on a new deal. Sir Alex's managerial departure, though, is not thought to be a deal-breaker.
* The 'significant extra resources' include two United officials exclusively working on making this return happen while Nike now is on board in helping to fund a United bid for Ronaldo. Remember that the Portuguese superstar has a sponsorship deal with Nike, as does United, but Madrid have a deal with rival Adidas.
* And these last few paragraphs of the report hint at what United's overall summer transfer strategy might be:
'The Glazer family want at least one statement signing, or a few purchases of note, to accompany the official unveiling of David Moyes at the start of July.
The club are also keeping their options open in midfield, where they are specifically targeting significant reinforcements. Although there have been no firm rejections in approaches for Barcelona duo Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcantara, there have been no changes either.
United are seeking to push ahead with a deal for PSV Eindhoven's Kevin Strootman, especially having been made aware of Tottenham Hotspur's interest in the midfielder. Contrary to reports, however, no terms have been agreed.'
Personally, I've always been skeptical (but hopeful) of this Ronaldo return happening. Increasingly, though, I suppose it does seem possible and all indications are that United will spend more this summer than they have in a long time. There was another recent report -- one that many outlets ran with -- that indicated Moyes will have a net-spending transfer kitty in the region of £60 million this summer. And keep in mind, this could drastically increase with the sales of current players on the squad. For example, a hypothetical exodus of Rooney, Nani, and Anderson could realistically bring in about £40-55 million in transfer fees while their combined wages would also free up an additional £38m million over the next two years (their contract information is here). It's actually possible that United could purchase Ronaldo and still have an additional £30-40 million to spend on other transfers (e.g. £60m transfer kitty + £50m in player sales - £80m Ronaldo purchase = +£30m) -- hypothetically, this would be close to funding the fees in Marouane Fellaini's and Thiago Alcantara's release clauses if United still desired to purchase other players (which they surely will).
Anyway, none of this is obviously concrete and if Ronaldo extends his Madrid contract this summer, then this is all a moot discussion. In a piece for ESPN, Musa Okwonga -- a United supporter and football writer -- offers what he believes to be the sobering realities to this romantic notion of a Ronaldo return:
'First, let us indulge the glorious attacking possibilities that Ronaldo's return would produce. A first-choice forward line of almost unparalleled fluidity and technique, consisting of Ronaldo, Robin van Persie, Shinji Kagawa or Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck or Wilfried Zaha. A season's worth of disoriented defenders and 80,000 throats sore each week from all the gasping. At a stroke, this would make the football as consistently spectacular as it was when the thrilling trident of Ronaldo, Rooney and Carlos Tevez led Manchester United to their last UEFA Champions League triumph in 2008.
Let us now step away from the delirious stands and into the world of money, where a look at the cold, hard financial arguments suggest that Ronaldo is most likely staying right where he is. This has more than a whiff about it of a superb contract renegotiation by Cristiano and his team.'
As Okwonga points out, and as some TBB community members have too, this could simply be a negotiation strategy for Ronaldo's new contract.
Anyway, this loosely is a primer for the current situation of a possible Ronaldo return to the Theatre of Dreams. For United supporters, will this be an impossible dream made possible, or is it a fool's dream?