Guillem Balague has revealed the lengths that Alex Ferguson went to in order to prevent Cristiano Ronaldo from joining Real Madrid in 2009.
The then-Manchester United manager’s hostility towards the Spanish giants is well-documented, and he had even insisted just months before Ronaldo’s £80m move to the Bernabéu that he “wouldn’t sell that lot a virus.”
Nonetheless, the move did end up happening – although Balague claims that Ferguson had attempted to get Real’s fiercest rivals involved in order to stop the then-world record transfer from happening.
In Balague’s new biography of the Portuguese international (serialised by Spanish publication AS), Balague writes that Ferguson was so incensed by Real’s public and shameless pursuit of Ronaldo in the summer of 2008 that he encouraged Barcelona to enter the bidding to land the player, with Ferguson finally giving up hope of being able to convince him to stay.
“This was about much more than a transfer, it was about maintaining his authority in the eyes of the world. For weeks he’d pursued a Machiavellian approach of sorts, but seeing that he couldn’t persuade Cristiano to stay he made contact with Barcelona to encourage them to bid.
“Anyone but Real Madrid.”
Unfortunately for Ferguson, Ronaldo had long made up his mind about where he wanted to go. Neither the forward nor his agent Jorge Mendes was particularly subtle about his desire to join Real Madrid, to the point where even if Barcelona did become interested, it would not have mattered in the overall scheme of things.
In the end, Manchester United worked out an arrangement with Mendes, Ronaldo and Real – he would stay at Old Trafford for one more year and move the following summer:
“Ferguson sought a gentlemen’s agreement that he’d already run by Mendes,
“He wouldn’t let him leave this year, he said, but if he behaved well over the next twelve months, if he gave enough to the club and Madrid came back with a record fee, he wouldn’t stand in his way.”
Considering Ronaldo scored 26 goals in all competitions as Man United retained their Premier League title, won the League Cup and reached the Champions League final, it turned out to be a productive year for all concerned.