Real Madrid have dropped their biggest hint yet that they are finally willing to accept defeat in their long-running pursuit of Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo.
The La Liga giants tried unsuccessfully to lure the Portugal superstar to the Bernabeu last summer and angered Old Trafford officials to such an extent that they were reported to Uefa for publicly courting the 24-year-old.
Sir Alex Ferguson was so vexed by the see-saw speculation, caused in the main by the-then president, Ramon Calderon, that he vowed never to do business with “that mob”, adding he “wouldn’t sell them a virus”.
A Champions League humbling by Liverpool and defeat in their bid to retain their Primera Liga crown is certain to lead to a period of transition at the Bernabeu and reports have suggested Calderon negotiated a pre-contract agreement with Ronaldo’s agent, Jorge Mendes, before his exit from the club.
But, ahead of the presidential elections, Real have insisted no such deal is in place.
“In relation to the reports that have appeared in several media in the last few hours regarding the alleged signing of the Manchester United player Cristiano Ronaldo, the club want to categorically deny said information,” a statement read.
“There exists no pre-agreement, neither with the player, nor with his agent, nor with Manchester United.
“As is well known, Real Madrid tried to sign the player last summer and Manchester United made it clear that the player was not transferable.”
Skeptical Ronaldo followers have argued he has never quite nailed his flag to the mast, but he too has moved to insist he does not want to be the marque signing for any future president.
“I’m sure [Florentino] Pérez would create an incredible team at Madrid but at the moment I’m at United and I don’t care about what happens there. I only care about what will happen next season at United.”