‘I know you want to go to Real Madrid, but I’d rather shoot you than sell you to that guy,’ she says.
It came as no surprise when Cristiano Ronaldo signed a world record transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid in July 2009.
Ronaldo had progressed from a precociously gifted teenager to the best player in the world in his six years at Old Trafford, receiving every imaginable honor along the way.
A move to Madrid promised a new challenge for him, and Real, now led by the re-elected Florentino Perez, had no qualms about paying the £80 million fees.
Ronaldo’s move to Real Madrid was unavoidable.
For the 12 months preceding up to Ronaldo’s departure from Manchester United, it was an unavoidable fact that his route would one day lead to the Bernabeu – it was a matter of when not if.
In the summer of 2008, after Ronaldo had helped United win their third European Cup in Moscow, Perez’s predecessor, Ramon Calderon, had openly stated his desire to sign him as a Real Madrid player.
Ferguson was enraged by Real Madrid’s public pursuit of Cristiano Ronaldo.
The great United manager reveals in his autobiography how the Portugal international voiced his desire to complete the transfer a year before it was finalized, only to be appeased by negotiating a secret arrangement.
Ferguson flew to Ronaldo’s native Brazil to visit him at the home of his assistant, Carlos Quieroz. He writes in his autobiography:
‘I found the youngster expressing a desire to visit Real Madrid and told him, ‘You can’t go this year, not after the way Calderon has addressed the situation.’ ‘I know you want to go to Real Madrid, but I’d rather shoot you than sell you to that guy right now,’ I added. If you do well and don’t annoy us, and someone comes along and offers us a world record fee, we’ll let you go.’ That word had already been relayed to his agent, Jorge Mendes.
‘I did a good job of calming him down. I told him it was because of Calderon that I was reluctant to sell him that year. ‘If I do that, all my honor is gone, everything for me is gone, and I don’t care if you have to sit in the stands,’ I added. I know it won’t come to that, but I just wanted to let you know that I will not let you go this year.”
Ferguson later alerted United’s then-CEO, David Gill, who forwarded the message to the Glazers. Ferguson goes on to say that he cautioned Ronaldo about the possibility of the contents of the deal becoming public knowledge.
The deal was beneficial to all parties. Ferguson would have a year to find a suitable replacement (or, as it turned out, Antonio Valencia, Michael Owen, and Gabriel Obertan) while reaping the benefits of having Ronaldo’s brilliance available for another season.
With the incentive to perform well and earn the move he so much desired, the footballer helped United win another Premier League title and the League Cup. If it hadn’t been for Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, his final act as a Manchester United player may have been to win his second Champions League trophy in a row.
Ronaldo moved to Real Madrid in 2009.
Ronaldo left United having scored 118 goals in 292 games while also winning the Champions League, three Premier League crowns, one FA Cup, and two League Cups. He arrived in Spain as Perez embarked on an ambitious quest to restore Real Madrid to the peak of European football following several seasons of dormancy in the Champions League.
Despite the fact that it took Ronaldo five years to win his first European Cup with Real Madrid, he went on to win three more in the four seasons that followed. When he departed Real Madrid for Juventus in 2018, he was the club’s all-time leading goalscorer.
The return of Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United
Throughout his nine-year stay in Madrid, Ronaldo was frequently linked with a return to Old Trafford. It never happened, despite claims that there was a strong feeling in Manchester in 2013 that it was conceivable.
Despite appearing close to a move to Manchester City in the days before the agreement was finalized, Ronaldo did return to United in the early stages of the 2021/22 season. Ferguson is thought to have had a key role in the deal.