Portugal 'sells' Ronaldo to Spain in £160m deal on national debt

 

Noon has passed, so check the date!

Weighed down by debt, and reeling from the latest downgrading of their country's credit status, Portugal's finance ministry has secured the co-operation of football's highest-paid player in an audacious bid to draw the nation back from the brink of economic collapse.

In a move which some observers claimed "will lead to the destruction of the World Cup", Cristiano Ronaldo has agreed to "act like a patriot" and be sold to neighbouring Spain for €160m.

Last week, Prime Minister José Sócrates resigned after his government's latest austerity package was rejected by parliament. His move followed the downgrading of his country's credit rating to the category above "junk". While Ronaldo's fee, though double the current record (paid by Real Madrid to Manchester United for Ronaldo's club affiliation in 2009) barely dents the €12bn Portugal owes, Mr Socrates, now caretaker premier, believes that the international bond markets will take it as a symbol of Portugal's determination to tackle the crisis, and respond accordingly.

Although no footballer has ever previously been "transferred" between countries, there is extensive precedent for changing nationality, especially in Spain. Two of the greats, Alfredo di Stéfano and Ferenc Puskás, played for the Spanish national team after representing other countries and then taking Spanish citizenship. Di Stéfano – who is still involved at Real Madrid and is thought to have influenced Ronaldo's decision – had played for Argentina and Colombia. Puskás even played in the 1954 World Cup final for Hungary but went into exile after the crushing of the 1956 revolution. As recently as Spain's 2008 European Championship triumph, Marcos Senna, Brazilian by birth and parentage, was a key player.

Senna, however, had not played for Brazil. Since Puskás' day, Fifa, the world governing body, has tightened its rules. Once a player has played a competitive international for one country – at any age group – he cannot switch allegiance unless he had dual nationality at the time, and was educated in the second country. Mikael Arteta, Everton's Spanish midfielder, abandoned an attempt to play for England because he had played competitively for Spain under-21s. But Fifa's secretive executive committee is expected to meet today, in extraordinary session, to adapt its statutes to permit such moves in circumstances where both governments agree.

"It's insane," said a spokesman for the Bruges-based Keep Football Pure organisation. "Those idiot administrators have not thought it through, as usual. There's now nothing to stop Qatar buying a World XI. It'll destroy the World Cup, it will turn it into another Champions League – only worse."

Opinion is divided in Portugal. While many see Ronaldo's agreement to the move as the "ultimate patriotic gesture" others regard the transfer as a "surrender". Paolo Fril, professor of political economics at Lisbon University, told The Independent: "We were ruled by a Spanish king for 60 years [1580-1640] and had to go to war to win back our independence. This is not about Spain saving us –they are restoring the Iberian Union by the back door."

There are doubts in Spain, too. The issue is not naturalising Ronaldo, but whether he is needed. Spain are the current world and European champions, with a style of play that relies more on passing than the soloist skills for which Ronaldo is known. "If we are going to buy foreigners we should buy Lionel Messi [Barcelona's Argentinian star]," said one fan.

But if Ronaldo is unappreciated in Spain, his skills may be in demand elsewhere. Late last night, reports suggested that David Cameron was preparing a counter-offer, of £200m, to persuade Ronaldo to play for England. "The Premier League is where Ronaldo became a star," said the Prime Minister, "so it is only right and proper he should play for England." He added that Vince Cable had proposed a "Ferrari tax" to pay for it, though Ronaldo himself would be given exemption.

Noon has passed, so check the date!

Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
Video
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
News
i100
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?