Manchester United feel they may finally have the financial package to force Real Madrid’s hand over a summer move for Cristiano Ronaldo, ESPN understands.
Speculation intensified in England on Tuesday over the forward’s potential return to Old Trafford, with the Sun reporting details of a bid.
ESPN wrote in January, however, that any future move was dependent on a number of circumstances aligning and United figures have privately indicated that is increasingly proving the case.
The biggest stumbling block has been the finances, particularly given Ronaldo’s age and the Old Trafford club’s previous attempts to balance their debt with a prudent financial policy.
Due to the Glazer family’s aggressive marketing, this summer’s significant new Premier League broadcasting deal and a number of huge sponsorship contracts, however, United expect to have a particularly high transfer budget this summer - possibly up to £20 million more than any close-season since 2007. They have also approached their main commercial partners about funding a bid. Whereas Nike said no, though, Chevrolet remain interested.
It is expected that any deal for Ronaldo would involve a fee of between £50 million and £70 million, although United may look to offset it by adding a player. Real, however, have already rejected the prospect of bringing Wayne Rooney to the Bernabeu.
One of the other key facets to any prospective deal is Ronaldo’s personal willingness to make it happen. The 28-year-old has indicated both privately and publicly that he will not sign a new deal with Real when his current contract runs out in 2015, and that will further leverage United’s position. Ronaldo is understood to be unwilling to wait around for another period of relative transition at the Bernabeu once Jose Mourinho makes his anticipated summer departure.
Since January, the Portuguese manager’s exit has effectively been confirmed and, unless Chelsea fail to qualify for the Champions League, the scene looks set for him to make a return to Stamford Bridge.
For his part, and as he now enters the prime of his career, Ronaldo greatly wants to work with Sir Alex Ferguson and United again. Should the chance arise, he would select a move to Old Trafford over Paris Saint-Germain, regardless of wage. The French club are also widely reported to be readying a bid. Ronaldo’s depth of feeling for his old manager and club, though, can genuinely not be understated.
United, though, have been keeping their options open at the same time. Ferguson told United Review: "Hopefully the players we bring into the club in the next year or so will be of the quality we need. We're competitive in the market - we're not Chelsea or Manchester City in terms of money but we're competitive.
"We've been doing a bit of work on that over the last three or four months, targeting who the players are that we feel could enhance us, make us better or help us maintain the level we're at."
Although they have looked at the possibility of a bid for Gareth Bale, any such move is apparently close to a “non-starter”. Not only are Tottenham reluctant to do business with United, the player himself favours a move to Real Madrid far above anyone else if he is to leave White Hart Lane.
The Old Trafford club do remain privately encouraged that a deal for Robert Lewandowski can yet be struck, following on from Ferguson’s comments at the weekend.
Although the Polish striker’s representatives are understood to have agreed the principals of a deal with Bayern Munich, there is nothing sorted with Borussia Dortmund, who are hugely reluctant to let their rivals buy a second of their key players after Mario Gotze.
Similarly, such baseline agreements are common practice for the agents of highly sought-after players, who will look to maximise their client’s opportunities. Lewandowski is known to have a number of other representatives exploring possibilities outside Germany - not least with United.
Again, much of that depends on the future of Rooney - who may yet leave for Paris Saint-Germain. It is set to be a summer of intrigue at Old Trafford.