Manchester City’s new billionaire owners are planning a world-record 135m bid for Cristiano Ronaldo in the January transfer window before turning their sights to, among others, Fernando Torres of Liverpool and Cesc Fbregas of Arsenal. “Ronaldo has said he wants to play for the biggest club in the world, so we will see in January if he is serious,” said Dr Sulaiman Al-Fahim, of the Abu Dhabi United Group.
Al-Fahim also re-iterated that he would investigate the potential availability of the former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry, Valencia’s David Villa and the former Brazil international Ronaldo to join Robinho in a “dream team” that would be able to challenge for the Champions League within two or three years.
However, he identified United’s Ronaldo as the biggest challenge for the billionaire tycoons, backed by members of the United Arab Emirates royal family, who have taken control of the club from Thaksin Shinawatra. “Real Madrid were estimating his value at $160m (90m) but for a player like that, to actually get him, will cost a lot more; I would think $240m (135m). But why not? We are going to be the biggest club in the world, bigger than both Real Madrid and Manchester United.”
In all probability, City’s chances of persuading Ronaldo to forget about moving to Real Madrid and decide instead to swap Old Trafford for Eastlands - or ‘Middle Eastlands’, as some City fans have started referring to it - are, at best, miniscule. Yet City’s remarkable signing of Robinho from Real Madrid, for a British record 32.5m, just before Sunday’s transfer deadline has already sent shockwaves through the sport, and Al-Fahim insisted the club would be willing to pay United three times the world transfer record, set in 2001 when Zinedine Zidane moved from Juventus to Real Madrid. “We want a team who can win the Champions League,” he added.
Al-Fahim also confirmed that Torres and Fabregas were among his targets as City look to bring in a “minimum 18” players. “We’re not just going to spend money on anyone, but if we can get the biggest players in the world, and of course if the manager wants them, then we will get them,” he said.
Robinho arrived in London on Tuesday for a brief meeting with Mark Hughes to conclude the transfer - even though he has yet to take the usually routine medical examination - before flying out to join up with the Brazil national squad for Monday’s World Cup qualifier against Chile. The 24-year-old has agreed a four-year contract that makes him the highest-paid footballer in the history of the game, with a weekly salary of 160,000.
Ronaldo could conceivably be offered twice that amount but it could also be argued that City’s pursuit of the twice footballer-of-the-year also demonstrates a degree of naivety on the part of the new owners. United’s reaction was one of bemusement, a spokesman saying “we have said all summer Cristiano is not for sale”