Football: Ronaldo agrees improved contract with Barcelona

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The Independent Online
Want to buy "the finest young footballer on earth"? That will cost you pounds 50m, plus, of course, the small matter of his annual salary of pounds 2.5m upwards.

A number of clubs were interested in signing the 20-year-old Ronaldo, Barcelona's dazzling Brazilian who attracted the superlative description from the club's coach, Bobby Robson, but yesterday he and his advisers agreed a new contract with the Spanish club that runs until 2006. It has a starting salary of 500m ptas (pounds 2.5m) a year, which is twice his current wage and will rise in line with the retail prices. Ronaldo can expect to earn 800m ptas a year (pounds 4m) by 2005.

The contract contains an escape clause. Barcelona think that if a club offered pounds 50m, Ronaldo could go, but that fee, too, is index linked.

The announcement of the contract by the Barca president, Josep Nunez, concluded two days of talks with the player's three Brazilian representatives, who will take a 10 per cent cut. The deal makes 20-year-old Ronaldo football's biggest earner. "I hope this contract lasts its term, and we won't have to renegotiate it in two years' time," Nunez said, "because my heart couldn't stand the strain."

Ronaldo has scored a record 34 goals in the Spanish league this season, putting Barca within two points of the league leaders, their arch-rivals Real Madrid, and helped the club to win the European Cup-Winners' Cup.

Nunez conceded the need to seek extra sponsorship money to help defray the cost of keeping Ronaldo, who also has a pounds 1m a year contract with Nike to wear their boots.