Manchester United have decided that £80m coming in for Cristiano Ronaldo, a player whose increasingly individualistic streak was hindering their team ethos more than helping it, represents an excellent piece of business. There are few United fans who will argue with that logic.
Despite several recent declarations of loyalty to Old Trafford, Ronaldo will be on his way by 30 June. "Manchester United have received a world-record, unconditional offer of £80million for Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid," the club's statement said this morning. "At Cristiano's request - who has again expressed his desire to leave - and after discussion with the player's representatives, United have agreed to give Real Madrid permission to talk to the player."
Sir Alex Ferguson managed to remind the player last summer of the contract he had to honour, the manager's visit to the player in Lisbon doing the job in the end. But there are only so many times that such powers of persuasion can come to bear and there are two decisive factors in United's decision to relent on this occasion: the club's debts of around £700m and the fact that the player has not been the force he was when sweeping all before him and scoring 41 goals in 2007/8.
The 2008/9 record was hardly unimpressive - 18 Premier League goals, second only to Nicolas Anelka. But set against the increasingly distinct impression that he was again yearning to be elsewhere, United decided that the price is not one that will be bettered in the future.
The player's unwillingness to fit to the team ethos revealed itself in ways that United have tried to brush away lately but which were blindingly obvious. The fit of pique after being substituted against Manchester City in the Old Trafford derby was the most public. But his comments in the aftermath of Champions League defeat in Rome were more cutting than anything he came up with in the course of his flirtation with Real Madrid last summer. "We, the players, didn't play well, the tactics was not good either... everything went wrong," he said. "I've played many games under a lot of pressure. The future... we'll see." There is a temptation sometimes to conclude that Ronaldo's words are not quite as brutal as they sound and that the real meaning is lost in translation. Not so. He knew what he was doing.
His decision to leave will create a long list of possible additions, though which of them is a guaranteed hit of the Ronaldo ilk? It took United six years to develop him from the 17-year-old signed for £12.2m from Sporting Lisbon into last season's all conquering 23-year-old.
Every Premier League manager talks about the period of adjustment to that level of competition. While securing Carlos Tevez's permanent deal now looks important, the prospective alternatives – Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema are two who are most touted – might not slot straight in. An informal inquiry has been made into Antonio Valencia and he looks like a strong proposition, given that the other left sided options – Nani and Zoran Tosic – look nowhere near the required level.
Is it a disaster if only Valencia signs this summer? No. United's front line has been disfunctional at times as Ferguson has tried to fit in Ronaldo, Tevez, Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov. Rooney and Berbatov in tandem, with Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck as emergent forces does not look like such a poor prospect.Reuse content