Nearly team mates: Ronaldo and Messi
As if Barcelona’s ‘Holy Trinity’ of Messi, Suarez and Neymar wasn’t scary enough, Cristiano Ronaldo has also claimed he would have loved the chance of playing with Leo Messi.
Well guess what? He nearly did
Quite how that would have panned out we will never know although it’s fairly safe to assume that such a combination would be enough to drive even the world’s meanest defences into stocking up on the smelling salts and valium.
We have to go back to the tortuous negotiations that took place between Real Madrid and Manchester United over the proposed sale of Cristiano that elevated the level of political intrigue and chicanery ever present in seemingly all Real transfer deals into the stratosphere. All details are in my biography of Ronaldo, but I will give you a brief version of it
So poisonous did those negotiations get in fact that at one point Sir Alex Ferguson announced, “You don’t think we’d get into a contract with that mob. I wouldn’t sell them a virus.” (In fact, by then he had agreed and signed a contract to let the player go).
But it was a result of things that occurred, or rather that were said, far closer to home rather than anything emanating from Manchester that almost scuppered Ronaldo’s move to the Santiago Bernabeu.
In temporary charge of the club pending elections following the departure of Ramon Calderon was the powerful businessman, Vicente Boluda.
Some three months before they were due to place, at a specially arranged forum, Eduardo Fernández de Blas, president of the lobbying group Ética Madridista gave an analysis of the Real Madrid situation that centred around Ronaldo and the lack of Spanish players in the squad.
“There are more Spaniards at Liverpool than at Real Madrid,” he said.
He added, ‘Cristiano is one of the best players in the world, but Manchester United are asking a lot for him and with that money we can sign two players from the Spain national team.“
“We’ll have to see how advanced the deal is and what the coach wants. We also need to evaluate how responsible such an investment is, as it could put the club’s solvency at risk. Maybe it would be wiser to invest €100 million in several players rather than just one.
“And Spaniards, if possible,” he went on.
Now while Fernández de Blas was supposedly independent, the problem was that his statements to groups from the media and club members were very much in tune with views held by Florentino Perez who was planning his electoral campaign.
In fact Fernández de Blas ended up as vice-president on Pérez’s board a few months later.
Whatever reaction ensued, De Blas sitcking his head above the parapet would give a kick-start to Perez’s campaign who could find out right from the start who his possible rivals would be and just where they stood on delicate issues such as the cost of Ronaldo.
Vicente Boluda was startled to hear the accusation: he could not allow such a stain on his reputation or be accused of wasting the club’s resources. And the club, under the previous president Ramon Calderon, had agreed to buy the player for just under those 100 million de Blas had mentioned. It was a very serious matter to hear De Blas say that he was putting the club’s finances in danger when in fact there was €140 million in the club coffers and the operation had been arranged with minimal risk attached.
But de Blas’s crafty, populist, potshot just before the chosen members’ assembly in which Boluda had to be ratified in order to be able to call elections further down the line was as about as inconvenient as it could be.
Not wishing to be perceived as the person who put the finances of the biggest sporting institution in the world at risk, Boluda set about ridding himself of any such accusations.
As mentioned above, there was in place an agreement that said that termination of the deal from either side would cost whoever chose to walk away €30 million. Boluda called Mendes personally and offered to pay that amount.
There was another option; a cheaper one. Both parties could agree to the termination, Real Madrid would not as some had alleged “throw €94 million down the drain” and Ronaldo who had an agreement with Ferguson would later be allowed to sign for who he wanted.
It was a crazy time and what followed it was even crazier.
What would be the reaction of both Mendes and Ronaldo bearing in mind the protracted negotiations to bring Cristiano to Madrid were so far down the line? How would they other candidates for the forthcoming Presidency react and how would the fans view it?
Would the signing of Ronaldo be seen as a huge illogical expenditure or conversely would his non-signing be regarded as having lost out to another club in the pursuit of one of the hottest properties around in football at that time?
What followed was as astonishing as it was defining in the whole affair.
No worries, said Mendes; he would send his lawyer to Madrid the following day to arrange the breaking of