By Coral Barry
Rafael Benitez has been given the go ahead to drop Cristiano Ronaldo by Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, according to Sky Sports.
Speculation has been mounting that the reigning Ballon d’Or winner could be on his way out of Madrid next summer and Ronaldo’s future has now taken a fresh twist.
With under-fire manager Benitez about to be given full backing by Perez in a press conference at 6.30pm on Monday, the president has also handed him full control over selection when it comes to the once-untouchable Ronaldo.
The Portugese, who was virtually anonymous as Real were mauled 4-0 by Barcelona in Saturday’s El Clasico, has not been able to match the personal heights of recent seasons under the new manager.
La Liga expert Guillem Balague told Sky Sports in a question-and-answer session: “After backing him in Monday night’s press conference, Florentino will tell Benitez that if he wants to sit down and have a ‘frank exchange of views’ with part of the ‘BBC’ (Bale, Benzema and Cristiano) and leave them on the bench then he has the blessing of the board.
“Florentino is referring to Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, who might be put up for sale in the summer.
“How will that turn out? All will be revealed if we suddenly start seeing Benzema and Ronaldo coming in and out of the starting line-up.”
As revealed by Football Insider, United are ready to commit a total package of £200million in a bid to entice Ronaldo next summer.
A United boardroom source has said the Premier League giants are willing to make the Portugese mega-star their top earner with a £20million-a-year-contract as well as pay Real a world-record fee of £120million.
In the strongest public indication yet that United will push for the reigning World Player of the Year, Van Gaal confirmed Ronaldo is in his thoughts.
“He plays on the wings and he is fast and scores goals. I don’t think there is a trainer in the world that doesn’t like him,” said the United boss at his media briefing on Friday.
“Of course we would look. We are looking at all the players, not only Ronaldo, but these players are mostly not to get. Let’s wait, and hope.”
The reigning World Player of the Year will have only two years remaining on his Real contract at the end of the season and there is genuine hope from the English club that he could be open to leaving the Bernabeu.
The sense is growing is that Ronaldo’s position is not quite as strong in the Spanish capital as it once was.