Cristiano Ronaldo announced for the first time last night that he wants to leave Manchester United for Real Madrid just an hour after Portugal crashed out of Euro 2008. The winger stalked off the pitch at the final whistle after the 3-2 defeat to Germany here and then announced his intention to seal a move to Real Madrid within the next "three or four days."
Ronaldo said: "The possibilities [of moving to Real] are great, but as I've always said it doesn't depend only on me. In the next few days we will see if we can arrive at an agreement. I have many desires and in the next few days they will become clear." He has flirted with the idea up until now and dropped hints about his future but this is the first time he has been so blunt about the move to Real Madrid.
With United so entrenched in the view that they do not want to lose the man who scored them 42 goals last season, it is difficult to predict how the next few days will play out. The 23-year-old still has four years left on a contract he signed only last season and his fee would undoubtedly break the world transfer record of £45m paid by Real for Zinedine Zidane in 2001. The next move will be Ronaldo's and there is a suggestion that he is prepared to hand in a transfer request to get his transfer.
Whether Sir Alex Ferguson and United will be quite so stubborn in the face of this outright revolt from their star player remains to be seen. What is clear is that Ronaldo's campaign to leave United is no longer based on whispers, the man himself has stated clearly that he wants to leave.
Ronaldo also said that he will need an operation on a foot injury that has plagued him for the last three months. He described it as a "small problem".
Luiz Felipe Scolari has had his last game in charge of Portugal – and his major rivals in the Premier League next season look set to lose their best player – but the new Chelsea manager was not happy with one of his new players. He was furious with Chelsea's Michael Ballack last night for a push on his club-mate Paulo Ferreira before he headed the third goal to give Germany a 3-1 lead.
"I don't want to say that Germany benefited, but all the screens and televisions showed that Ballack pushed Paulo Ferreira," Scolari said. "Unfortunately the referee didn't see it and we stopped. I don't know if that changed the game, we may have lost 2-1. But when we are pressing the opposition and we suffer a third goal, we have to start all over again. If it's a foul it has to be given by the referee."
Lack of discipline at set-pieces upset the Portugal coach. Although clearly unwilling to appear too critical of his team on their last night together, he must have had Ferreira in mind when he said: "What went wrong was the dead-ball situations, free-kicks. We had certain players to mark Ballack and certain players to mark the others. But the players changed the people who were marking and Germany made the most of it."
Scolari denied that announcing his move to Chelsea halfway through the tournament had any effect on the Portugal team, but was prepared to accept that ultimate responsibility for results rests with the coach. "If I hadn't announced I was going to Chelsea we would still have lost the last two games," he said. "We lost because we didn't do things right or with more quality. It was nothing to do with Chelsea. Some people will write or imagine it was but that's not the case. I'm responsible for choosing the players and planning to follow a certain plan. The manager takes responsibility for Portugal not being in the semis. He is the one who chooses the players and tactics."
Having indicated last week that four years at Chelsea – if given anything like that time – would see him through until retirement, he even suggested that returning as manager of Portugal might be possible. "I have a new project now but it's a national team and country I love and I will never forget them," Scolari added.
Joachim Löw, the Germany coach, was banned from the media conference as well as the touchline. His assistant Hans-Dieter Flick appeared to enjoy the limelight and admitted to having had "a small bet that we would score from a set piece and we got two of them". On Ballack's push, he shrugged: "We don't have to think about that any more. Whether foul was given, it doesn't matter to me now."
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