Even in the over-inflated world of super-rich football clubs, £80 million is a lot of cash. So when it emerged last week that Spanish giants Real Madrid were prepared to pay Manchester United such a huge sum to secure the services of one Cristiano Ronaldo, everyone sat up and took note. Especially given that Madrid had just splashed out another world record-breaking £56 million to take Brazilian playmaker Kaka to the Bernabeu.
But other than the astonishing fee, what was really interesting about this transfer was the way it was announced. In virtually every other transfer that takes place in the footballing world, it is the buying club that announces the deal and shouts about it to the media. Even before the official announcement, rumours are leaked to the press, with the selling club strenuously denying that any such activity is taking place. Ronaldo himself was at the centre of such speculation last summer, leading United manager Alex Ferguson to say of Madrid: “Do you think I would get into a contract with that mob? Absolutely no chance.”
Fast forward a year, however, and it was United that broke the news of Ronaldo’s impending transfer on its website, which is almost as unheard of as paying £80 million for one player. In a move specifically devised to steal the PR initiative and hand media power to United rather than Madrid, the club usurped journalists the world over by announcing that it had received a world-record, unconditional offer, that the club had given Real Madrid permission to talk to Ronaldo, and that it would not comment until matters had been concluded.
So although Real Madrid may have stolen United’s prize asset, at least United have come out top in a long-standing PR battle between the clubs. Shall we call it a draw?