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Has Ronaldo played his last game for Real?

Real Madrid say they have no plans to sell Ronaldo despite media reports that they are thinking of offloading the Brazil striker after his criticism of the club's fans.

india Updated: Feb 22, 2006 19:30 IST
Agencies
Agencies
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Ronaldo could have played his last Champions League game in the Santiago Bernabeu, and perhaps even for Real Madrid, if the stories in the Spanish newspapers on Wednesday prove to be true.

The three-time World Player of the Year opened his heart to the media on Monday, ahead of Real's Champions League game against visitors Arsenal, saying how unhappy he was at his treatment by the Spanish giants' fans.

The Brazilian added to the illusion when the two sides met on Tuesday by looking disinterested as the Premiership side became the first English team to win in the Bernabeu, their 1-0 victory coming thanks to a Thierry Henry goal.

"The board of directors has initiated the transfer of Ronaldo," ran the headline in Spanish sports daily As on Wednesday.

"They had a meeting yesterday before the game and talked about opening his way (to move) to Inter," revealed As, although the club refuted this claim.

"Ronaldo hasn't found any support in the dressing room for his outburst," added the newspaper, reinforcing the theme of its story.

"We want to make it clear ... that the board of directors did not discuss the future of Ronaldo or any other player at their meeting yesterday," the club said in a statement on their website on Wednesday.

However, the club's denial that they have started to discuss Ronaldo's departure, and coach Juan Ramon Lopez Caro's continued backing for the player, are unlikely to stem the stream of speculation about a possible transfer.

Rival Spanish newspaper Marca on Wednesday also had Ronaldo going to Italy's second city in the summer but instead of him returning to his former club, Spain's best selling paper had him set to sign for local rivals AC Milan.

"The outburst of Ronaldo has been a bombshell in Italy," commented Marca.

Marca quoted AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani as saying, "He's a great champion, and a player who is held in high esteem in Italy. At the end of the season, if he wants to change his jersey, I am sure many clubs around the world will be interested, including Milan."

Real's defeat by Arsenal leaves the nine-time champions of Europe with a mountain to climb in their second leg at Highbury in two weeks time if they are to qualify for the quarter-finals.

Ronaldo's comments before the game, and sorry display during it— which garnered zero points by both Marca and As in their player-by-player assessments— has also led to serious doubts about whether he will start the second leg.

Club captain Raul Gonalez's return to fitness and the availability of January-window signing Antonio Cassano means that Real coach Juan Ramon Lopez Caro now has alternatives as the main target man to the sullen superstar.

Amid the speculation, Real Madrid say they have no plans to sell Ronaldo.

"We want to make it clear ... that the board of directors did not discuss the future of Ronaldo or any other player at their meeting yesterday," the club said in a statement on their website on Wednesday.

"The board analysed the financial situation of the club and also showed its satisfaction with the work being done by the team coach (Juan Ramon Lopez Caro) and the technical staff."

First Published: Feb 22, 2006 17:57 IST