Do Manchester United have a case against Real Madrid over Ronaldo?

Manchester United have ‘officially’ complained to Fifa over Real Madrid’s alleged ‘tapping-up’ of Cristiano Ronaldo.

The complaint consists of a set of documents outlining United’s concerns over Real Madrid’s approach. Under Fifa rules (explained below) there isn’t any set punishment if (and it’s a BIG IF) Real Madrid are found to be in the wrong in this case, but it does signal United’s intent to ward off interest from Madrid in their star player.

Let’s set aside personal biases here for a second – the ABU (Anything But United) brigade will claim that the Ronaldo situation is just rewards for the club’s past sins, while those partial to United will call this blatant cheating on Madrid’s part. Myself, I’m torn between the desire to push Madrid away, disappointment at Ronaldo’s inability to commit his future and admiration for Real Madrid’s methods (they tend to get who they want, more often than not).

So nothing personal here. The question that stands out for me is:

Have Madrid done anything wrong that Fifa can ‘discipline’ them for?

Most of the attention is being focused on Article 18, which states:

18.3A club intending to conclude a contract with a professional must inform the player’s current club in writing before entering into negotiations with him. A professional shall only be free to conclude a contract with another club if his contract with his present club has expired or is due to expire within six months. Any breach of this provision shall be subject to appropriate sanctions.

Now let’s look at what Manchester United have said over this complaint:

“On 27 May, United made clear its intention to report Real Madrid if it continued to involve itself in the future of Ronaldo. Unfortunately, Real Madrid has not kept its own counsel.

The club feels it has no alternative but to make a formal complaint to the world governing body, which it has done today.”

Nothing in United’s public statement indicates that Madrid have made a direct approach to Ronaldo and offered him a contract – something that would effectively constitute as a violation of the above-quoted Fifa regulation and subject Real Madrid to sanctions.

For Madrid to ‘contact the player’ directly, they’d need to inform United in writing. One would assume, considering United’s complaint, that Madrid have NOT informed United and gone ahead and offered Ronaldo a contract through his agent and agitated the player to an extent that he has, in an interview directly attributed to him (but not recorded live on TV or on audio, so there’s no definitive proof), said that he’d like to play for Madrid if they can match United’s valuation.

The most United have done so far is to accuse Real Madrid of being ‘immoral’, which is hardly considered as cheating or breaking the rules. And as some Madrid fans have rightly pointed out, a lot of the ‘chasing’ has been through the press with Calderon (mainly) talking to the press about Ronaldo (once you plant the seeds, the reporters keep asking you the same questions every time) and at every opportunity pointing out that Madrid want him, which has led to a lot of speculation about contracts and offers.

My bet is that United’s complaint has little to do with Article 18 and a whole lot to do with Madrid’s ‘conduct’, specifically in making comments to the press (even as answers to questions) about a player whose registration United holds. United are appealing on moral grounds, which to me doesn’t seem like much of a leg to stand on.

If they have a stronger case than that, I’d be surprised (and also happy) – and it would certainly mean that Madrid are legally in the wrong and therefore liable for some sort of punishment. Having said that, what type of punishment would Fifa deliver? A fine for 50k euros? Million euros? Fifa would not award any significant penalties so Madrid have little to worry about even if they’ve done something wrong.

But if Fifa can use this case to amend their regulations and specifically regulate the role of agents in these transfer situations, then we have some hope (because in such matters it’s the agent ‘passing the notes’ and so on). Not that it’s going to happen…

Transfer Rumors (10 June 08): Ramsey to Arsenal, Barry (finally) to Liverpool, Reyes to Newcastle, and more
Portuguese FA suspends 26 referees on corruption charges


  1. Gonzalo @ All In White 10 June, 2008
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  17. Madinat man united fan 26 June, 2008