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Saturday, June 13, 2009

PREMIER REPORT

Words mean very little these days in soccer world


LONDON — "Do you think I'd get into a contract with that mob? Absolutely no chance. I wouldn't sell them a virus.'' — Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson when asked about selling Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid in December 2008.

Christopher Davies

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"This is my home now . . . this is where I want to play.'' — Ronaldo pledges his future to Manchester United in May 2009.

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"I just want to say to the millions of Rossoneri fans that I have made my choice. I want to stay. Just leave me alone, please. I'm staying at Milan. And as of today, this case is over.'' — Kaka in June 2009, the day before his move to Real Madrid was announced.

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PROOF, IF IT was needed, that no is the new yes on Planet Football.

You can also throw in Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti's promise last month that he would be coach of Milan next season.

A few days after Kaka's move from AC Milan for a world record £56 million, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez raised the bar by paying £80 million to Manchester United for Ronaldo. It is Monopoly money. So much for the credit crunch.

Ronaldo is a sensational player, the finest and most exciting I have seen in English football since the late, great George Best.

Yes, he goes down too easily and considers every tackle on him a foul, but Ronaldo is a special talent who rarely disappoints. He lit up the Premier League and I wish he had stayed a few more years. Our loss is La Liga's gain.

Ronaldo is irreplaceable — it would be difficult enough to find a striker who could score 70 goals in two years let alone a winger.

At least the daily "Ronaldo to Real?" stories will stop, but the inevitable transfer saw United fans treated with contempt. Many United supporters renewed their season tickets on the basis that Ronaldo said he was staying and United said it wasn't selling the player.

It is impossible not to believe the Real deal had been agreed to, at least in principle, for some time. It didn't suddenly happen on Thursday.

The story would not go away in the media, but it was always knocked back by all parties.

Under Sir Alex Ferguson, who signed Ronaldo from Sporting Lisbon for £12.24 million in 2003, the Portugal international has been transformed from show pony to World Footballer of the Year.

After a summer of will he, won't he, last year Ferguson secured Ronaldo's services for another season, yet there was a suspicion that he only remained at Old Trafford on sufferance.

Ronaldo's body language was too often negative but it would be unfair to wave goodbye to the magician from Madeira by reviving memories of his petulance while ignoring the stunning brilliance he has delivered on a regular basis over the last six years, not least the 42 goals he scored in 2007-08.

You can bet Ferguson has been planning how he will spend the Ronaldo cash with Bayern Munich playmaker Franck Ribery, Lyon striker Karim Benzema and Wigan Athletic winger Antonio Valencia potential targets.

Real, which needs a central defender and a left-back, is apparently still in the market for more galatico forwards. For Madrid read Hollywood.

Maybe it plans to win every game 7-6.

Safest bet of next season: United will meet Real in the Champions League though Ronaldo's welcome at Old Trafford will not be as warm as for other returning heroes such as Roy Keane.

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IN MY NEXT life I want to be an agent.

In this life I wouldn't have minded being Bosco Leite, the father and representative of Kaka, who this week joined Real Madrid from AC Milan for £56 million.

Mr. Kaka's cut was apparently £8.7 million. I have no idea how long contract talks took, but I hazard a guess Leite, pro rata, has probably earned more than Bill Gates this month.

How on earth can anyone justify almost £9 million pounds to negotiate a deal that all parties were in favor of?

Real wanted Kaka, Milan was willing to sell, the Brazil international was not going to turn down the chance to earn £62 million over five years.

So on the face of it the transfer hardly seems to have taken a huge amount of time or effort to push through.

If a City banker makes a huge profit for his company perhaps he is entitled to earn £9 million, which is unlikely to have been 16 percent of the deal. Leite is reported to have earned — make that been paid — 16 percent of his son's transfer fee.

The biggest City bonuses rarely exceed £3 million. If this was the only deal Leite ever did, indeed if it was the only money he was ever paid in his career, he would still never need to work again.

For negotiating a deal that required no hard sales technique, someone or some parties were happy to pay Leite a shade under £9 million. Nice work if you can get it. Very nice.

Why didn't the clubs just employ the services of a solicitor and pay the usual hourly rate which, for even the most expensive legal eagle, would have been a fraction of Senor Leite's exorbitant cut?

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THE RONALDO transfer overshadowed England's 6-0 defeat of Andorra — or the Andorra Arms as it was tagged, the principality being akin to a pub side — at Wembley, its seventh successive 2010 World Cup qualifying victory.

Fabio Capello has turned England's underachievers into a side with genuine World Cup aspirations. Spain remains the team to beat in South Africa, while Brazil, Italy and Germany know how to play tournament football better than most. Even their bad teams are good.

Doubts remain about goalkeeper David James, and a replacement for Wayne Rooney, who equaled Gary Lineker's record of 10 England goals in a season, if, heaven forbid, he is injured or suspended.

Yet Capello has given the players and fans renewed confidence which should not be confused with overconfidence. Thanks to the man from Milan, English football can summer well.

Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for theLondon Daily Telegraph.


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