Football: Tug of war over Ronaldo

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The Independent Online
The Brazilian striker Ronaldo ended months of speculation over his future by signing a five-year contract with the Italian club Internazionale on Friday - but Barcelona insisted that Ronaldo still belonged to them.

Josep Maria Antras, the Spanish club's lawyer, claimed that the Spanish Football Federation had not yet authorised the transfer, just hours after Ronaldo's agent, Alexandre Martins, announced the signing in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Brazil's base for the Copa America tournament.

"A contract was signed between Ronaldo and Internazionale for a period of five years," Martins said. "He will present himself to the club on 1 July for a medical and then he will go on holiday."

Martins said the financial details of the deal would be announced soon by Inter. Ronaldo said: "I am very happy. This is a problem that has been affecting the national team and now it is out of the way."

Inter's technical director, Luis Suarez, said: "Internazionale are very happy. We have signed a very important player."

Ronaldo's form appears to have suffered as the seemingly interminable negotiations have dragged on. He scored two goals in Brazil's opening Copa America game against Costa Rica but his displays in the subsequent two matches were patchy and he was substituted in Thursday's 2-0 win over Colombia.

The deal was announced shortly after Fernando Rey, Ronaldo's lawyer in Spain, said he had paid the four billion pesetas (about pounds 18m) necessary to release the player from his contract with Barcelona. Although the payment technically makes Ronaldo a free agent, a Fifa circular has decreed that only Spanish clubs are allowed to sign him without negotiating with Barcelona.

Negotiations to keep Ronaldo at Barcelona broke down at the end of last month. Antras said he thought that the conflict between Barcelona and Inter would eventually be settled by Fifa, world football's governing body.