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Tuesday 5 May 2009

Parting of the Ways

Alex Ferguson denied the story run recently by the Guardian that his Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo was on his way to Real Madrid come the end of the season. And when Ferguson says someone is staying at Manchester United, they tend to stay.

On the face of it, this might be thought to be the end of it. Ronaldo is a top player, and his goal tally last season drove the Red Devils to another Premiership title and a second Champions’ League win. But recently it has become clear that young Cristiano has also developed a top ego. And those don’t keep well at Old Trafford, as anyone who remembers the swagger and subsequent departure of Paul Ince will know. Also, Ronaldo has hit the target a lot less this season.

Now comes the story, once again from the Guardian, that Man U have been enquiring about the availability of Frank Ribéry, at present with Bayern Munich. The Frenchman would be a more or less straight replacement for Ronaldo. The cost, given the present exchange rate of Sterling versus Euro, would be over 60 million, but of course the amount that Man U might expect to extract from Real Madrid for Ronaldo would translate into more pounds as well.

The idea that Ronaldo – or any other player – is too “big” to sell on should not detain anyone for long. Ferguson has shown over the years that no player is bigger than the club, and has moved on a succession of crowd favourites – Hughes, Beckham, van Nistelrooy, Keane, Stam – when he has decided that the time has come for them to go. And on every occasion he has replaced them, with the team moving on to win more Premierships, more FA Cups, more anything and everything.

The fans have soon got over the changes, and those that were moved on have been forgotten. It will be no different with Ronaldo.

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