Football: Ronaldo burns his bridges at Barcelona

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The Independent Online
The Ronaldo saga dragged on yesterday when the Brazilian striker criticised the Barcelona president, Jose Luis Nunez, and said that he will be leaving the club.

"Everything Nunez has said is a lie and we no longer need to negotiate with them," Ronaldo said. "He tells me one thing and my agents something else. He has been cheating us for seven month. It's sad, but I'm leaving."

This explanation came after 24 hours of negotiations, in which Ronaldo's agents appeared to accept, and then pull out of, a deal to improve his contract. One of the sticking points in the negotiations was whether a bonus payment of two billion pesetas (pounds 8.75m) should be paid in Spain or in a tax haven.

A club spokesman said yesterday that the talks had broken down but added that Ronaldo remained a Barcelona player. It is assumed that Internazionale will shortly pay the 4.5 billion pesetas (almost pounds 20m) necessary to free Ronaldo from his existing contract, although Lazio have upped the ante in their efforts.

Sergio Cragnotti, the Lazio owner, has reportedly offered an annual salary of more than pounds 3m, comfortably more per year than Ronaldo has demanded.

Massimo Moratti, the Internazionale president, said yesterday that they had made an offer to sign Ronaldo but stopped short of confirming a deal had been done.

"Our offer for Ronaldo is there and they know that well. Our offer is still there and I think it has been carefully studied," Moratti said.

"At this moment there is no negotiator for Inter in Barce- lona and in any case I want to leave the lad alone until after he has played for Brazil," he added.

Barcelona's spokesman said Ronaldo would not play again for the club this season. The Brazil striker will therefore sit out the Spanish Cup final against Real Betis on 28 June as well as three league games he had been expected to miss because of international duty. At present, he is in Norway for Brazil's game tomorrow.

The 20-year-old has scored 34 goals this season and is considered one of the main reasons Barcelona won the European Cup-Winners' Cup, stand second in the league, two points behind Real Madrid, and have reached the final of the Spanish Cup.

Nunez has taken the news of Ronaldo's departure philosophically. "We've saved ourselves 15 billion pesetas over 10 years," he said.

Speculation over Ronaldo's replacement has already begun, with Alan Shearer heading the list of candidates. Shearer displaced Ronaldo as the world's most expensive player last summer, when he moved from Blackburn Rovers to Newcastle United for pounds 15m, beating Ronaldo's fee by pounds 2.5m.

Another Brazilian in critical mood was Ronaldo's team-mate Giovanni, who attacked Bobby Robson, Barcelona's coach. "He's an old man who hasn't got a clue," Giovanni said.

The former England manager, who has dropped Giovanni several times this season, responded by telling Giovanni to think before he spoke.