So, that was the end of another transfer window, where the evidence suggests Fergie’s assertion that there is no value in the market is true: £35 million for Andy Carroll, a man who has scored 34 career goals, mostly in the fizzy pop league. Andy Carroll becomes destined to join Lonsdale, Donnay and Le Coq Sportif shell-suits as just some of the guff Mike Ashley has been flogging, at a hugely inflated price, to scousers over the years.
Liverpool were put in the position of a panic-stricken husband searching for a last-minute buy in a back-water petrol station by Torres’ insistence on joining Chelsea.
Only a few seasons have elapsed since Torres and Ronaldo were viewed as the jewels of the Premiership crown; both young, both precociously talented, and both engaged in long-term contracts, giving fans the hope of a long and fruitful relationship- yet football and relationships are as distinct as City and success, unless your name is John Terry.
Comparisons will be made of both transfers but with the benefit of hindsight the two partings were very different.
The images of the bin-dippers torching their Torres replica shirts, points to a grief we too went through. The grief at the departure is inevitable and undeniable; after all there are plenty of other woman but there’s only one Ronaldo.
The Kübler-Ross model of grief is such:
Denial: “It’s just Marca shit-stirring again.”
Anger: “Little bastard”; “How can this happen to us?”; “Why leave United?”
Bargaining: “He could’ve stayed a bit longer, we’re better than Madrid anyway, it’s a circus over there”.
Depression: “Jesus Christ, Michael Owen is our new number 7”;
Acceptance: “It’s going to be ok”; “Fergie’s prepared for it. Wayne is the main man now, Berbs will come good.”
Nevertheless, for us, acceptance came fairly quick.
Ronaldo had a love-hate relationship with the British media. Yet, in retrospect, he was remarkable honest for a modern-day footballer. Ronny, always expressed genuine gratitude and recognition of his privileged position whilst talking about Manchester United, but he never lied about his desire to return to Iberia: “For me I love Manchester United. Yes for sure I would like to go home or to Spain at some stage, but right now I am very happy here”, was a typical response. It was hard to listen to, as a United fan; our beloved number 7 constantly flirting with the seductive Spanish beauty, but the lad was only answering questions. Always honestly, and always respectfully.
The unavoidable split was as mutual as can be in these circumstances. The compromise of an extra year allowed Sir Alex to deconstruct the team around him; reverting him back, mainly, to an orthodox right-winger, and laid the foundations for the 4-4-2 we play today. And he brought a truly astonishing world-record fee.
However, more pertinently it is Cristiano’s behaviour since his departure from Old Trafford that has endeared him to the Stretford End faithful.
‘Viva Ronaldo’ still reverberates around the Theatre of Dreams and a recent poll, as voted for by readers of Inside United and ManUtd.com, put Ronaldo at number 5 on a list of United’s top 10 players of all time:
- Ryan Giggs
- Eric Cantona
- George Best
- Sir Bobby Charlton
- Chistiano Ronaldo
- Paul Scholes
- David Beckham
- Roy Keane
- Peter Schmeichel
- Wayne Rooney
Speaking of his legacy at United, Ronaldo was typically confident: “I want to be remembered as part of the group of the greatest players ever.” And he has been. Obviously, you don’t get halfway up a list as prestigious as that without being class on the pitch, but it is his class off the pitch, that has put him in the company of Greats.
Sure, three Premierships, a European cup, an FA cup, two League cups, a prolific scoring record and a general swashbuckling demeanour are all pointers to his inclusion- but it takes more than great breasts, bed-breaking insatiablism, and a penchant for Super Sunday to make you speak kindly of an Ex, especially one who ran off with a wealthier, tanned, and more successful suitor.
But we do, and as in all great relationships the feeling is mutual:
“For me he (Sir Alex) was my father in football. He was crucial in my career and, outside football, was a great human being with me. Talent isn’t everything. You can have it from the cradle, but it is necessary to learn the trade to be the best.”
“I spent six years at United and I owe them everything that I am today. I made history at United and won many trophies. It was a pleasure to play at Old Trafford.”
Contrast this with Chelsea’s new number 9. Any scouser worth his perm and ‘tashe would’ve told you that Nando understood the Anfield club. They would’ve embarked on an eardrum-raping, phlegm-spitting tirade about YNWA tattoos and his idolisation of Dalglish. When murmurs of his unrest at Liverpool’s current demise surfaced “He’ll never play for another English club” was the retort.
And yet brilliantly, demonstrating the ruthlessness of a pissed-off mercenary (and that’s not an allegory) his first interview with his new club is a massive one-fingered salute to the Merseysiders:
“I’m really happy and I’m sure I’m doing one of the biggest steps forward in my career, joining a club like Chelsea. This is the target for every footballer – to try to play for one of the top clubs in the world. I just want to be at the level I’m supposed to stay at.”
Seasons ago commentators would have assessed Fernando and Cristiano and came to the conclusion that one was a class act with true affection for his former clubs and one was a spiteful Prima Donna, incapable of integrity. They were right.