Real admit Ronaldo likely to stay at Old Trafford

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The Independent Online

Real Madrid appear to have accepted that they will not be able to prise Cristiano Ronaldo away from Old Trafford in time for the new season. Real's president, Ramon Calderon, said yesterday that he expects the Portuguese winger to stay in the Premier League for another season at least.

Ronaldo has not revealed his plans for his future, as he promised to do after Portugal's elimination from Euro 2008, and is now due to undergo an ankle operation which could keep him out of action for at least six weeks.

Calderon, speaking at Wimbledon, where he was watching his compatriot Rafael Nadal in the men's singles final yesterday, said: "Right now the most probable thing is that Cristiano will be at Manchester United next year.

"United have to want it. Once they decide they want to sell and speak directly with us, then it can move. It's been said we are talking about a transfer but up to now that has not happened. We still have time. There are two months before the end of August. Ronaldo says he wants to play [at Real] and that it's a dream. But that is a desire of the player that can't be realised without the agreement of Manchester."

United will not, however, keep their assistant coach, Carlos Queiroz, who has agreed terms with the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) to succeed Luiz Felipe Scolari as national coach. He will leave Old Trafford, subject to the club's compensation demands being met.

Arriving in Portugal ahead of an appearance today at his new, United-affiliated school of football in Cascais, Queiroz said: "The future is not in my hands now. I have spoken with both parties and now I am awaiting the outcome of their discussions. I am feeling calm about it."

United may expect around £1.2m in compensation for the loss of Queiroz, who was on a rolling one-year contact. The FPF may balk a little at that figure, but Queiroz has been its first choice since the departure of Scolari and United may be prepared to negotiate. They would be unwilling to prohibit their No 2's departure if his heart is set on the new job. Sources in Portugal suggest Queiroz informed the United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, and chief executive, David Gill, of his decision on Saturday.

Queiroz's tough negotiating with the FPF appears to have paid off. He asked for a four-year deal to take him up to the 2012 European Championship in Poland and Ukraine, rather than the two years, up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, that the FPF was proposing. Queiroz also wanted a £1.2m salary – double the figure initially on offer and commensurate with what he earns at Old Trafford.

That both have been agreed to will be a blow to Gill, who, according to Portuguese sources, made a counter-offer of £1.5m-a-year – a £300,000 increase for an individual who is already Britain's best-paid assistant manager – in an attempt to keep him in place.

Gill's strenuous efforts reflect the value of a man who has had a major tactical input into this United side's achievement in becoming champions of Europe. The timing of his departure is unfortunate for United and Ferguson as preparations to defend their domestic and European titles get under way. The former striker Brian McClair, who is highly regarded by Ferguson after his work as the club's academy director, may be a contender to replace Queiroz.

Despite a strong relationship with Ferguson, Queiroz may have questioned whether the top job at United would ever be his. The 66-year-old United manager, who brought Queiroz back to Old Trafford after a brief and unhappy spell as Real Madrid coach in 2003, passed up several opportunities last season to suggest that Queiroz might be his natural successor.

Gill is in Nyon, Switzerland, today for the inaugural meeting of the European Club Association, which will bring him into direct contact with Calderon. The two men are expected to exchange handshakes and work together on the development of the organisation which succeeds the old G14. United have made it clear that any attempt on Calderon's part to discuss Ronaldo will receive short shrift.

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