Help! I'm being held captive by Man Utd

Only in the Premier League could a player who earns £120,000 a week compare himself to a 'slave'

In the week when so many people with too much money took leave of their limited senses, it was only a matter of time before a Premier League footballer added his name to the roll of honour. Sure enough, the sun was hardly up on Thursday when Mr Cristiano Ronaldo entered the fray. In the parallel universe that is Premier League football, where all known laws of physics, geometry and accounting have long since ceased to apply, it takes something special to register as absurd. But Ronaldo has pulled it off. The young man who earns £120,000 a week thinks he's "a slave".

He is, for the moment at least, a footballer with Manchester United. Ronaldo is one year into a five-year contract, but has decided he would now like to leave to join Real Madrid. Sir Alex Ferguson, United's manager, would prefer him to remain, and has no intention of selling him to the Spanish club. There the stand-off might have simmered awhile, had not Mr Ronaldo opened his mouth and spoken words that, as Private Eye's football correspondent E I Addio is likely to write, "shook the world of soccer to its foundations". And for once the old soak would be right.

The silly words in question actually began life in the mouth of Mr Sepp Blatter, president of football's governing body, Fifa, and a man who, when asked for his opinion on women's football, once said that the players should wear tighter shorts. Applying the same intellect to the subject of Ronaldo, Mr Blatter said: "In football there's too much modern slavery." Ronaldo immediately chimed in: "It's true. I agree with what the president of Fifa said."

His bondage takes a strange form. He earns £6.2m a year at United and is said to be about to sign a £23m sponsorship deal with Nike; his cars include a £150,000 Bentley; he gave his girlfriend a Mercedes with monogrammed seats; and his new home is a £4m mansion in Alderley Edge, which has an indoor pool, gym and cinema. His recent holiday was spent sailing the Med on a £10m yacht.

There has been no shortage of folk to point out that his predicament hardly warrants the attentions of a modern-day William Wilberforce. Pele, no less, said yesterday: "You are a slave if you work without a contract or don't get paid. If you have a contract, then in any job you have to finish that contract."

An even better response came from Isleworth Crown Court on Friday, where a London accountant was jailed for smuggling a 14-year-old girl into Britain and forcing her to work as a domestic slave for years. Now that, Messrs Blatter and Ronaldo, is slavery.

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