Why Ronaldo's Real Madrid frustration is NOT about money
"They said they'll treat me like royalty if I join Man City because they want to win the league. They sent me a picture of a Bentley with 500,000 notes on the seat. It was louco [crazy]."
Ronaldo is a wanted man: Manchester City, Anzhi Makhachkala, PSG ... They've been lining up for him for the past two years. Stories of City and Anzhi making £90 million-plus offers can't be dismissed given Real made back his original £80 million fee in shirt sales inside the first 12 months.
The scrapping of the 'Beckham law' and hiking up of Spain's income tax rates are a concern for the former Manchester United star and Jorge Mendes, Ronaldo's agent. But sources in Madrid and Manchester say that's not what led to Ronaldo making his frustrations public after that victory over Granada.
Ronaldo is still in touch with teammates and staff at United and when they chat the common thread is his exasperation with the culture inside Real. This season's disastrous start to the season is no surprise to Ronaldo. He saw it coming and made his feelings known to president Florentino Perez in that infamous meeting on September 1.
Ronaldo, armed with only a small backpack, visited Perez on his own. He wasn't flanked by Mendes or a family member. He went into the meeting on his own, determined to make Perez aware of his concerns and to learn from the president how he intended to address those issues.
Last season's title triumph papered over the fractures Ronaldo experiences every day. As a Champions League winner, Ronaldo knows at the very top, the tiny details matter. It's the difference between finishing in the top four and actually winning the competition.
Seeing his senior teammates openly defy Jose Mourinho's orders not to mix with Barcelona players left Ronaldo shaking his head. That the likes of Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos did it so publicly went against everything Ronaldo had learned at United and the "us against the world" mentality Sir Alex Ferguson drives into every player who sets foot inside the dressing room.
But it's not only the locker room culture that has Ronaldo concerned.
Real isn't rudderless, but at United, Ferguson and chief executive David Gill are constants. One or both are at the club every day. In contrast, Perez's focus now seems to be dominated more by the problems engulfing his outside business interests, rather than Real.
Ronaldo has sympathy for Perez, but can't help but look back to Manchester and see United continuing to improve their Carrington complex and City now launch their £100 million training centre plans. Real - and Spanish football in general - appears to be chasing its tail with no clear sign of how to take things forward.
For Ronaldo, pursuing his career in Madrid would be the ideal scenario. He can handle a hostile press, even the fickle Real support. But he needs to see improvements in the sporting culture of Real. He wants more professionalism and greater unity. Being jeered by home fans last season, with no public support from the top, still hurts.
A new contract is on Ronaldo's mind. But it isn't the dominating issue frustrating Ronaldo. He'll turn 28 in February and wants to be part of a winning dynasty.
Whether that's at Real or somewhere else, depends on Perez and if he values the club's current culture, or recognises what Ronaldo - and Mourinho - have been pushing for some time now.