Economy minister: Ronaldo deal a private matter

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MADRID - Real Madrid's record bid of 80 million pounds for Portugal winger Cristiano Ronaldo is a private matter for the club, Spanish Economy Minister Elena Salgado said on Tuesday. In an interview with state television, Salgado said she was "surprised but not scandalised" by Real's offer to Manchester United and urged the banks who have lent money to fund the deal to be equally generous to firms and families. "Real Madrid is a private company and takes the decisions it sees fit and the banks also make their decisions," she said. "What I would ask the banks is that if they have liquidity they should also extend credit to companies and families." Before bidding for Ronaldo, Real's new president Florentino Perez had already spent about $94 million on Brazilian Kaka and the Primera Liga club has said it wants four or five more top players to help rebuild the squad. The huge transfer fees have shocked many people in Spain, especially with the country mired in a deep recession, unemployment rising towards 20 percent and a lot of clubs already deep in the red. UEFA president Michel Platini last week described the Ronaldo bid as "excessive" at a time when the world is in the grip of a severe financial crisis. Real director general Jorge Valdano was quoted as saying on Tuesday that spending large amounts on top players was in line with the economic theory that you have to invest to kickstart a struggling economy. "That's exacly what we are doing and engaging in a moral debate is missing the point," Valdano told news agency Efe. Real had to buy the best players if they wanted to compete with rich European rivals such as Silvio Berlusconi's AC Milan and Roman Abramovich's Chelsea, he added. PUBLIC WELFARE Real's spending spree was also discussed in the Spanish parliament on Tuesday, with one party tabling a non-binding motion calling on the government to limit salaries in sport. The Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds also presented a list of questions for the government, including asking whether clubs would be required to pay millions of euros in debts to the treasury and the social security system. Jose Antonio Alonso, a spokesman for the ruling Socialists, told deputies Real's activities were a private matter for the club as long as they respected the law. "We are concentrating on looking after the welfare of the people," he said. Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, spokeswoman for the opposition Conservatives, called on Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, a fan of Real's arch rivals Barcelona, to make public his opinion. Celia Villalobos, another conservative, said it was not possible for the government to intervene. "If a club wants to commit suicide by paying 100 million euros for a player that's their problem," she added.