MANCHESTER UNITED have already said they would rather let Cristiano Ronaldo rot in the stands than sell him to Real Madrid. For the future of football and for every club in the world I hope they mean it — because they would be absolutely right.
If United can’t stop Ronaldo screwing up a contract and disappearing to another club simply because he fancies the move, then nobody can. And if that’s where we’re at, then football descends into anarchy, contracts are meaningless bits of paper and the tail is well and truly wagging the dog.
United will only be concerned about themselves right now but they really are representing every other club. I believe they have to dig in and say No. No to Real Madrid and No to the principle of a player deciding to walk out, irrespective of the years left on his contract. And if United aren’t bothered about fighting their corner for everyone else, they have their own internal reasons for needing to fight this. There are plenty of other players at Old Trafford that clubs like Real Madrid might suddenly decide they want. If Ronaldo goes now, what’s to stop Carlos Tevez, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and all the others suddenly being lured away? But it will take incredible boardroom strength to stand firm and resist the millions we expect Madrid to hurl United’s way now.
United are understandably angry right now with the whole situation. But once the bruise starts to fade and blood flows back to the brain, there will be many commercial forces looking at the financial reality of rejecting a bid that could go as high as £70million. I can’t think of a single club that has turned down that sort of money. But the world is watching and United’s next move will send a message that will echo throughout the game.
I don’t want to suddenly turn United into angels, either. Ask Everton what it was like to lose Rooney to Old Trafford. Were Tottenham happy at the way Michael Carrick packed his bag - and I don’t remember Bayern Munich being overjoyed at the way Owen Hargreaves was coaxed away. So if United stand firm now, and I hope they do, they must realise that they are standing for a principle that will apply to them as well. If the relationship between a club and its players revolves around the contract, then that contract has to be set in stone - and honoured by every manager, player, agent and board of directors. Including United’s. Only then will we have some sanity and commonsense in the game - and not the anarchy Ronaldo’s move to Madrid would spell.