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Ronaldo & Man Utd? Why Florentino can afford to scoff this week

COMMENT: So has it caught him out? Cristiano Ronaldo and that ego? Is this where it all catches up with him...?

You have to believe Florentino Perez afforded himself a wry smile this week. The Real Madrid president may've been left frustrated, we hear even "insulted", by Daniel Levy's stand over his Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino. But you can imagine Florentino afforded himself a little chuckle towards the end of the week when it came to another negotiating stand off.

Ronaldo has boxed himself in. There's really nowhere for him to go - literally. Well, that's the belief of Florentino and those close to the president.

For all of Ronaldo's bluster. Which has come via his friends in the Portuguese media. Those inside the Real boardroom have scoffed. They've been together for eight years. Florentino knows what makes his No7 tick. Manchester United will offer him more. PSG may do the same - if they can navigate UEFA's Financial Fair Play threats. But when it comes to the crunch, Ronaldo isn't going to throw his lot in with either of them. He knows it. Florentino knows it. And even Jorge Mendes knows it.

Mendes, Ronaldo's long time agent, met Tuesday with Florentino in Madrid. Several items were on the agenda - including Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea's situation. But the meeting was dominated by Ronaldo and his contract demands. €80m. That's what was put to Florentino as a starting point for negotiations. €80m-a-year for Ronaldo to stay. Of course, Florentino threw it out - immediately. But Mendes did leave with assurances that he'd hear from the club before the end of the week. And he did.

Sitting on a salary of €21m, Ronaldo and Mendes concede they've been caught out. The current deal was signed in November 2016 - just months before Neymar, PSG and the world turning upside down. In the same time of Ronaldo's back-to-back Ballon d'Or titles, his nemesis, Leo Messi, was securing a pay-rise to €40m-a-year from Barcelona. And Neymar was getting a massive €36m-a-year from PSG. That Ronaldo's concerns have not just been ignored - but ridiculed - by the boardroom at Real has exasperated the Portuguese. We hear upon learning Alexis Sanchez is now at United on a clear £175,000-a-week more than Ronaldo has infuriated him. The best player in the world for the past two years has been relegated to second class when it comes to the best paid in the game. When those close to him say "it's not about money, but status", you can understand the frustration.

And that call Florentino put into Mendes on Thursday won't have helped matters.

For most people, a 50 per cent raise on their salary would be more than enough. But Real's proposal of wages worth €32.5m-a-year - including bonuses - has left Ronaldo unimpressed. And when you get into the fine print, you can understand why. Take out the incentives and it's a fixed salary of €25m. As a confidant of Ronaldo's said: "He could earn that with two sponsorship deals".

But for Ronaldo, the problem is - what's the alternative? No club can give him what he wants like Real Madrid. Not United. Not PSG. No-one.

Jose Mourinho has already told Ed Woodward, United's vice-chairman exec, he'd be happy to work with his old Real attacker again. Mourinho knows he'd be getting a different version to the player he encountered in Madrid five years ago. A far more mature player. One who understands his physical limits and is willing to sit out games for the long-term good.

The United manager is open to a reunion primarily due to a 'pact' forged between Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane at the beginning of last season. Ronaldo accepted Zidane's demands he be withdrawn for certain games, Copa del Rey ties, routine LaLiga matches. All so he could be in prime health in time for the Champions League knockout rounds and the season run in. The plan worked to perfection - and it is something Mourinho has discussed with Mendes about replicating if a deal can be done.

Woodward and the United board are willing to meet Ronaldo's terms. Mourinho would welcome his countryman enthusiastically and with open arms. But Florentino knows best - Ronaldo's change in attitude only stretches so far.

He let it all slip on the Kiev pitch after a third consecutive Champions League triumph. No, we're not talking about those comments about "it has been great being with Real Madrid". We're talking about what he said moments later.

"The Champions League should change and be called the CR7 Champions League. I have won five and I am the goalscorer again, so I cannot be sad."

That's it in a nutshell. That's why Florentino won't be forced into upping Ronaldo's wages to satisfy his ego. Why he knows his No7 is staying - even if he does reject Thursday's counter proposal.

As his pal suggested, Ronaldo can make far more in endorsements than what he earns with Madrid. But the club offers him what no other can: the opportunity to win more Champions League and Ballon d'Or titles.

It's not a guarantee, but near enough to it. And beyond everything else, Ronaldo's ego won't allow him to risk it all on a return to Old Trafford or a promise with PSG.

Mendes knows that. Florentino knows that. And Ronaldo and his ego knows that too.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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