Never let it be said that Real MadridÃ¢ÂÂs pom-pom donning, axe-wielding cheerleaders-turned-hatchet-men Marca and AS donÃ¢ÂÂt put in the leg-work in their pursuit of a story (and for Ã¢ÂÂstoryÃ¢ÂÂ read Ã¢ÂÂparty lineÃ¢ÂÂ) This week theyÃ¢ÂÂve been in Manchester and London chasing this Cristiano Ronaldo thingymijig.
And despite the obstacles placed in their path Ã¢ÂÂ like not being allowed into Manchester UnitedÃ¢ÂÂs training ground, getting banned from Angry Alex FergusonÃ¢ÂÂs press conferences and, erm, not actually speaking any English in the case of one intrepid reporter relaying back the truth from England Ã¢ÂÂ they have really excelled themsleves in their service to the cause. Oh yes.
Yes... him again
Now, La Liga Loca isnÃ¢ÂÂt saying that Ronaldo definitely is not going to Madrid. He might. He might not. ItÃ¢ÂÂs not even saying that there is not some message lurking between the lines of FergieÃ¢ÂÂs declarations. There might be. There might not be. ItÃ¢ÂÂs just that the evidence that Marca and AS have presented to Ã¢ÂÂproveÃ¢ÂÂ that he definitely is going to Madrid (and to try to help make it so that he is, in fact, going to Madrid) sends the words Ã¢ÂÂclutching,Ã¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂstrawsÃ¢ÂÂ and Ã¢ÂÂatÃ¢ÂÂ leaping into La Liga LocaÃ¢ÂÂs mind, doing cartwheels and banging saucepans together.
Just as they did when Marca and AS claimed that he must be going to Spain because heÃ¢ÂÂs got a Spanish girlfriend Ã¢ÂÂ an issue they have quietly dropped since she got dumped and started displaying her charms in the tabs. Take MarcaÃ¢ÂÂs front cover on Sunday. (Somebody please, etc). ThatÃ¢ÂÂs the FRONT COVER of a NATIONAL newspaper on a SUNDAY, traditionally the biggest day of the week, the preserve of the most exclusive of exclusives, the most earth-shattering of stories Ã¢ÂÂ like busses being found on the moon, Freddie Star eating your hamster, that sort of thing.
In fact, thatÃ¢ÂÂs the FRONT COVER of the countryÃ¢ÂÂs BEST-SELLING newspaper. And it says, Ã¢ÂÂIf Cristiano Ronaldo wants to go, he should just go now!Ã¢ÂÂ above a picture of a fat bloke in a Manchester United shirt.
Man United's man in the know
Because, make no mistake, the opinion of a fat bloke in a Manchester United shirt with no position at the club and no neck is definitely front-page news (not to mention a great photo Ã¢ÂÂ¦ wow! theyÃ¢ÂÂll be proud of that one).
Especially when itÃ¢ÂÂs backed up by, ooh, at least four or five other United fans Ã¢ÂÂ including one whoÃ¢ÂÂs apparently called Ã¢ÂÂBopÃ¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂ who are all quoted as saying Ronaldo should leave. And wait, the evidence is even more damming. Because, get this, UnitedÃ¢ÂÂs fans COMPLETELY IGNORED Ronaldo during a match he wasnÃ¢ÂÂt at. There were no songs, no chants, nothing - Ã¢ÂÂas if he had already gone,Ã¢ÂÂ said Marca. Instead, for some reason, they spent the whole time singing about some bloke called Ole or something. Which is pretty conclusive evidence that to a man (and a woman) UnitedÃ¢ÂÂs fans want shot of him. And if United fans donÃ¢ÂÂt want him, heÃ¢ÂÂll definitely go.
Because football fans are never fickle and have never, ever changed their minds. And because United will obviously do whatever the fat bloke says (actually maybe thatÃ¢ÂÂs not so silly: after all, RamÃÂ³n CalderÃÂ³n would). Even more conclusive when you see the other evidence. Like AS and MarcaÃ¢ÂÂs claim that Ferguson is going soft and is already planning for a future without Ronaldo. Because, when asked about Fraizer Campbell, he insisted that the striker will stay at United because he Ã¢ÂÂonlyÃ¢ÂÂ has Tevez and Rooney at centre-forward.
Which, never mind the absence of Ronaldo with injury for three months or the fact that the Portugeezer is not actually a centre-forward, obviously means that what Fergie really means is that Ronaldo wonÃ¢ÂÂt be there. Or, more importantly, because the United manager made comments that were splashed across the front cover of AS, under the headline: Ã¢ÂÂFerguson gives in on Ronaldo.Ã¢ÂÂ
Comments that basically said: Ã¢ÂÂitÃ¢ÂÂs rare for any player to stay for more than a couple of years, especially a foreigner.Ã¢ÂÂ Comments that were obviously about RonaldoÃ¢ÂÂs future and how the United boss admits that he wonÃ¢ÂÂt stay.
Or would have been but for the fact that Ferguson was sitting next to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the time (a foreigner who stayed for more than two years) conducting a press conference to present the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer testimonial and responding to a question about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Sir Alex and Ronaldo, disguised as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
But then how should AS know that? After all, they werenÃ¢ÂÂt actually in the press conference to see the striker with a babyÃ¢ÂÂs face grinning next to the manager with a worryingly red one. But La Liga LocaÃ¢ÂÂs particular favourite was MarcaÃ¢ÂÂs marvellous ability to get a story out of not being allowed in to UnitedÃ¢ÂÂs training ground. No access? No sightings? No quotes? No news? No nibbles? No photos apart from that one of the gate? No problem.
According to Marca, UnitedÃ¢ÂÂs training ground is like Fort Knox. Fans and press canÃ¢ÂÂt get in; a sign even warms them not to hang around for autographs. And THAT is why Ronaldo wants to leave. No, really. You see, Ronaldo actually WANTS to Ã¢ÂÂfeel the warmth of the fansÃ¢ÂÂ (Marca's words not La Liga LocaÃ¢ÂÂs). He hates being cut off, he hates being able to work and train in peace, he hates not having fans clawing at him, clambering over his car and screaming into his ear.
He hates the fact that the paparazzi are kept at bay, he hates the fact that he doesnÃ¢ÂÂt have journalists badgering him for quotes and hangers on trying to sell him watches or get tickets off him. What he really, really wants Ã¢ÂÂ apart from a zig-a-zig-ah! Ã¢ÂÂ is to be at Real MadridÃ¢ÂÂs Valdebebas HQ instead, where it can take players hours to get out of there as they run the gauntlet where mates of mates of mates of mates of the president grabble at them, kiss them, and take photos and pretend to be their best pal ever, while journalists, encaged behind the bars, reach at them like madmen in an asylum.
THAT is what he wants. After all, MadridÃ¢ÂÂs current players love it. Which is why Robinho has spent the past year leaving out the back window.