Ronaldo 'will join Real in summer' says Spanish press

Deal already agreed for winger to leave Old Trafford, according to Madrid director
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The Independent Online

Manchester United have agreed to sell Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid at the end of the season, according to reports yesterday in the respected Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

The claims are bound to refuel the bitter war of words between the two clubs,as they come just before tomorrow's Champions League draw which could pit the two teams against each other in the last 16.

El Mundo quotes a conversation between a Real Madrid director, Pedro Trapote, who is understood to be very close to the club president, Ramon Calderon, and one of his business associates, which it alleges took place on Monday.

Trapote explains that the Ronaldo deal is done but clauses in the agreement prohibit Madrid from making it public. He says: "If you are asking me what we are going to do, now I can tell you that we have already signed the top one for next summer."

When asked: "Are you talking about Cristiano?" he replies: "The top is the top. It is Cristiano, there is no one else. The thing is, it is better not to say anything right now. There are clauses that prevent us from announcing it. For us it would be the right moment but we shouldn't. But it's not bad, is it?"

El Mundo goes on to claim at least two other club directors are leaking the news that Ronaldo is a done deal but that Madrid are banned from announcing it. Having Ronaldo tied up for the start of next season would go some way to explaining why Real were so inactive in the transfer market last summer.

Having failed to sign the United winger the club went ahead and sold Robinho and did not bring in a replacement. Injuries this season to Arjen Robben have forced the club to sign somebody in January but so far they have only enquired after Middlesbrough's inexperienced 20-year-old Adam Johnson.

El Mundo's claim comes just days after Calderon did his best to build bridges with Manchester United when speaking on the BBC's Sportsweek. He said: "I respect [Sir Alex] Ferguson very much. He is a very talented coach who has been in football for a long time. I don't want to be in a quarrel with him. Ronaldo decided to stay there and we respect that decision. Any club in the world would like to have him but he is there and they are happy with him and that is the end of it."

One reason Madrid would be so keen to sign Ronaldo is because the midfielder Rafael van der Vaart, who only joined the club in the summer, has failed to live up to expectations. Van der Vaart says he needs to improve to earn a regular place in the team but dismissed media reports that the Spanish champions were looking to offload him. "I have been here five months and think it is a little early to start speaking of these things. No one has said anything to me," he said.

"It's true my performances have dropped off. I have to work hard in training and I feel things are going to get better for me."

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