(AFP) – Aug 7, 2008
BOGOTA (AFP) — Real Madrid coach Bernd Schuster has expressed sadness that Manchester United's Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo is set to remain with the European Champions at least for the coming season - while reports in Spain insisted he would move next year.
Real have been coveting the 23-year-old all summer but after Ronaldo told Portuguese newspaper Publico that he will stay at Old Trafford "for at least another year" Schuster said he regretted he would not be coming to the Bernabeu at least for the time being.
"We respect his decision as he is free to do as he wishes. It is a pity he cannot come as he would have improved with us," Schuster insisted prior to a Real friendly Thursday against Colombian hosts Independiente Sante Fe.
Ronaldo, who has been linked with a move to Real Madrid for weeks, despite being under contract for another four years, told Publico: "Sir Alex Ferguson heard my arguments, I heard his and, in fact, it was settled that the best for both parties would be for me to stay.
"Therefore, I can confirm that, next season, I will play for Manchester United.
Nonetheless, Spanish media said Ronaldo would indeed don the white shirt of Real in a year's time.
"Now, no, but on July 1, 2009, he will be at Real Madrid," predicted Marca sports daily, adding: "Ronaldo has accepted to stay on at United on condition they accept Madrid's offer in 2009."
Ronaldo told Publico he would give his all in the coming season despite the abortive transfer saga.
"Before rumours emerge saying that I will play against my will, I want to make this clear - whoever says or writes that is lying.
"I will play for Manchester with all my heart and soul. I will fight and honour that shirt with the same commitment and dedication as always," insisted Ronaldo, who scored 42 goals last season in helping to propel United to the Champions League and English Premiership titles.
Real had been prepared to pay 85 million euros for Ronaldo, who admitted that "I was responsible for all this controversy. I was the one who publicly expressed my desire to go to Real Madrid. I ended up being, even involuntarily, responsible for the poor relationship between the two clubs."
Ferguson said late Wednesday: "We knew this was the case (that Ronaldo would be staying). I flew to Portugal some weeks ago and we cleared the air and he spoke to some of the players.
"The boy has been through a troubled time in terms of the approaches from Spain, but once he knew my stance, he then settled down.
"He has come out with this interview, which we are all pleased about, and we will welcome him back here this week," added Ferguson, who has also urged United supporters to stand by Ronaldo, despite his perceived disloyalty.
Following ankle surgery in early July in Amsterdam, Ronaldo is not set to play until the end of September.
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