Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Ferguson still bitter over Ronaldo

Alex Ferguson has a right to be remembered as one of the best club managers the world has ever seen. His list of trophies (22 in 22 years) at the helm of Manchester United, including a treble (League, Cup and European Cup) in 1999 helped earn him a knighthood. He even won the now defunct Cup Winners' Cup with Aberdeen back in 1983, beating, you've guessed it, Real Madrid.

He is also a controversial media figure, and has not spoken to the BBC since they broadcast a programme over his son's alleged involvement in the football transfer market, an allegation that was never proved.

Ferguson is known for his clever use of psychology on both his players and on opponents, most famously when he completely unsettled Kevin Keegan, then at Newcastle, for the 1996 league title. However, he is not above showing his frustration when things don't go his way, and frequently criticises referees when he feels his players aren't properly 'protected'.

In an interview with GQ Magazine published in The Times, he gives vent to some of his annoyances over the whole summer saga regarding the transfer of Cristiano Ronaldo.

"I knew it was coming, so I wasn't surprised. When we sold Gabriel Heinze to Real Madrid [the previous summer], we knew it was going to happen, because Ronaldo was very close to Heinze. I knew what they were doing. I don't believe they were interested in Heinze – good player though he is. The endgame was to get Ronaldo.

What made it really obscene was that Madrid, as General Franco's club, had a history of being able to get whoever and whatever they wanted, before democracy came to Spain."

OK, you can perhaps forgive Ferguson being annoyed that his star player was the target of one of the biggest clubs on the planet, and that they made few bones about making it known (even though appearances were more or less maintained). The player and his advisers, who must surely shoulder a large part of the blame for the whole media circus, also unsurprisingly escape Ferguson's wrath - one wonders whether he would be so understanding had Ronaldo made a stronger attempt to leave Old Trafford. I wont even delve into the accusations he has faced of similar behaviour when he had wanted players to come to Manchester United.

But Ferguson is very conveniently ignoring both recent and ancient history. Gabriel Heinze did not go to Real Madrid in the summer of 2007 because he was part of a master plan to sign Cristiano Ronaldo. Heinze had been approached by Liverpool and Ferguson blocked the transfer, gifting a bargain to Real Madrid in the process. The whole thing was transacted in a matter of days, not weeks or months.

The whole General Franco claim is just laughable, all the more so in this day and age. Someone should perhaps point out that while Real Madrid won more league titles than either Barcelona or Atlético during the Franco years (14, vs. 8 and 7 respectively), Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona, clubs from parts of the country that had been against Franco during the Civil War, won more cup titles (9 and 8 vs. 6).

Even if any of that were true, the suggestion that in the 32 years since Spain became a democracy, Real Madrid still have the attitude that they can buy anyone they want when they want because of the Franco legacy is just plain bonkers, or to use Ferguson's own word, obscene.

Real Madrid have been seen as arrogant in European footballing circles because since Florentino put the club on a much sounder financial footing, they have been able to compete in the hyperinflationary transfer market. His policy of buying the best player on the market every year was the subject of worldwide media attention, even if, as we now know, it actually led to an unbalanced side that won no trophies for three years.

That transfer market, it must be said, is now led by Premiership clubs flush with TV and foreign owners' cash. Real Madrid are not unique in looking out for the best players and never have been, something that Ferguson conveniently forgets. But hey, he says he's retiring at the end of next season. Maybe he can spend some of his free time reading some history, instead of revising it.


Anonymous said...

I can't believe the club is actually letting this go. They should try to counter what the bastard said or at least release an official statement.

BTW, did you read the comments on the times about us? Disgusting.
They think we're funded by the spanish gov. I guess the cule's are succeeding with their propaganda.

Gonzalo said...

There will always be ill-informed people who will repeat parrot-fashion whatever they are told and never bother to check some basic facts. Feel free to comment on the article in the Times and sent them this way! ;)

Anonymous said...

The old guy just doesn't realise what he is saying. That bloody cunt is pissing me off by the minute. Why is he bringing in Franco all the time??? I so hate United. Do you see Ronaldo coming here in the future?

Anonymous said...

Everyone is entitled to an opinion. The fact that this has got you so riled leads me to wonder how embarassed you were during close season by Calderons behaviour? I'd guess that you saw nothing wrong there?

Gonzalo said...

Anonymous #2,

I'm not sure whether you're addressing your comment to me or to the other commenters on this thread. For my part, I think that if you read this blog regularly, you will see that I have criticised Calderón for his behaviour on many occasions. The man does not have the dignity and gravitas necessary for the job he has. This does not detract from my also criticising Alex Ferguson for his comments.

P.S. can you pick a different name when posting, so it's obvious who I am responding to? ;)

Anonymous said...

Didn't the spanish government buy their training ground?

Gonzalo said...

Anonymous #3,

In a word, no, the Spanish Government did not buy the Real Madrid training ground.

The facts of the case are way too long and complicated to set out in a blog comment, but the 'Ciudad Deportiva' on which the training grounds used to be was reclassified by the Madrid regional government so that it could be repurposed for other uses (such as office buildings). This of course, resulted in a massive increase in their value, which Florentino used to alleviate the club's debt. However, the land wasnot bought by any public body, it was bought by a number of private investors and corporations at the relevant market prices.

It should be said that this kind of lobbying of local/regional governments for reclassification of land is commonplace amongst Spanish slubs, so this is by no means the only incidence of it.