"Cristiano Ronaldo, please stay!"
As Real Madrid celebrated their Champions League win with their supporters on Sunday night, the spotlight was on a man who had not taken centre stage during the victory over Liverpool but, once the final whistle had been blown, certainly had hogged the attention: Cristiano Ronaldo. And there can be no doubting it: the reaction that he got was wholly positive. "Cristiano, please stay!" the fans shouted on the streets of Madrid, before his team-mates surrounded him at the Bernabéu, hugged him, and chanted likewise. The ball is now in Florentino Pérez's court. He was the clear target of the barb sent by Cristiano, which may have been poorly timed - you could even say it was just downright unpleasant - but has not turned people against him. There's no getting away from the scale of his contribution to Real over the years. That's why he's forgiven pretty much anything.
Ronaldo and Pérez have always had a testy relationship
It all comes down to the fact that he and the president have never had an easy relationship. When Pérez took office, Cristiano's 96m-euro signing had already been agreed by predecessor Ramón Calderón, and the new chief immediately started giving it the whole 'that's too much, I'm gonna get a better price' thing. That went down badly with Ronaldo, who by that stage had a Champions League and Ballon d'Or to his name. Meanwhile, the player has constantly measured his pay packet against that of Leo Messi, whose Barcelona deal has been improved nine times, and it's a persistence Pérez has grown weary of. There's been the odd scene. "Come to me with the money to pay your release clause and you're free to go," he's even said to have told him. And when Ronaldo's problems with the tax man blew up, the star was swift to remind the club of the way Barça came to Messi's aid in the same situation. The latest flowering of tensions stems from that.
Let's enjoy these special days for club football in Madrid
The fact is that Cristiano is now 33 and, though he's clearly an athlete who remains in fine shape, we're still talking about a guy closing in on his mid-30s. So Pérez is caught between the pressure to take the hit and hand him an improved contract, and the temptation to go ahead and name a successor (Neymar). That's a problem we'll have to leave him to resolve. In the meantime, let's savour this period of joy for football in Madrid, one that has brought Real's umpteenth European title, Atlético's Europa League triumph and the prospect of a Uefa Super Cup derby in Tallinn, not to mention Rayo Vallecano's promotion back to Primera (with Getafe and Leganés already there, that makes five Madrid teams in the top flight; anyone would think this is Buenos Aires or London). Rayo Majadahonda have gone up to Segunda, too. Club football in the Spanish capital is riding the crest of a wave.
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