Ronaldo woos United fans but Real love will be back

Even when his explanation is composed so plainly and yet articulately, it is hard to find much sincerity in a player whose ego allowed him to sanction the publication, in what passes as a biography, of an image of himself smouldering in a shower beside the caption: "I like to feel good with my body."

Cristiano Ronaldo's summer romance with Real Madrid will be best remembered for the way he batted his eyelids only at the Spanish press corps during the European Championships; for his eagerness to sanction suggestions that keeping him at Old Trafford was tantamount to slavery as he limped out of an Algarve clinic in plaster. But for those with longer memories – the Manchester United fans whose gallows humour about the loss of the world's finest player has been characterised by the Ronometer in the redcafe chatroom – the night of 21 May will take some getting over. That was when he buried his face in the mud of the Luzhniki stadium, walked around the pitch with a European Cup winners' medal around his neck and, when asked if he was staying, promptly told the world: "I never promise nothing."

Ronaldo, whose choreographed renewal of vows with Manchester was delivered to the Portuguese Publico newspaper's Bruno Prata – the husband of Manuela Brandao, an employee of Jorge Mendes who minds the player and wrote the biography with him, had a different version of that Moscow night to tell yesterday. "I'm going to say something here that I've never told anybody. If we hadn't been European champions I probably wouldn't have even thought about going to Madrid," he told Prata, suggesting that United's success meant he had won all there was to win." The facts are rather different. Ronaldo dropped his first hints a full week beforehand – delicately but deliberately to a journalist from the Spanish broadcaster Antenna 3, barely 30 minutes after Sir Alex Ferguson had spoken, voice hushed, about the historical significance of the final, 40 years on from Munich.

In many ways, Ronaldo's latest utterance is as calculated as that piece of innuendo. After Ferguson flew into Lisbon three weeks ago and told Ronaldo a transfer was a no-go, Plan B was the contrite interview. Judging by one significant disclosure – Ronaldo's declaration to Prata that: "My coach was kind enough to come and visit me in Lisbon a few days ago" – the interview seems to have been conducted immediately after the endgame and held back for publication just before his expected return to Manchester today.

Judging by United chatroom traffic, it seems to have worked. The player has certainly done enough to head off the kind of hostile reception Emmanuel Adebayor received at the Emirates on Saturday and he need not fear the boos Rio Ferdinand encountered three years ago after stalling for six months over his contract – on the face of it, a far lesser offence.

In part, that is because United are the winners in this story for our times, in which a player tries to take control, agitate for a move without asking for one and so override a contract which rewards him well. It is also because football supporters have short memories when it comes to a player like Ronaldo, whose brilliance outshines his love of the bathroom mirror. And it is because United have got one over on Real Madrid.

But it is also because the term betrayal is hard to define. Carlos Tevez has declared his wish to return to Argentina in time – possibly four years. Is it a betrayal if he chooses to do so in two? For a 23-year-old Ronaldo has served a mighty long time at United – six years – and it is hard to take issue with what he told Prata about his love of Spain, its one-hour flying time from his mother and its cultural appeal – "everyone realises Spanish and Portuguese culture and lifestyle are more similar". Viewed that way, plainly and without this summer's subterfuge, his admission that he wishes to leave in the end makes sense. Ronaldo might consider himself "a kid" but a further six years at United would take him virtually to the age of 30 and the point of his footballing decline.

The player's departure next summer now looks likely – William Hill already have him at 5-6 to be at the Bernabeu this time next year – but there should be decent odds on him also leaving a hero. Ferguson will allow him to escape without censure because he is an old man in a hurry this season to match Liverpool's 18 titles and defend a European Cup – the true sign of greatness, as Rio Ferdinand observed on Tuesday.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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.

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test