Cristiano Ronaldo cast doubt over his future with Real Madrid after they won the Champions League for the third consecutive season on Saturday in a 3-1 win over Liverpool.
“Now is the time to enjoy this,” Ronaldo said on television after the game in Kiev, Ukraine. “And in the coming days you will have my answer to the fans, the ones who have really been on my side. It has been very nice being at Real Madrid.”
Told that it sounded like he was saying goodbye, Ronaldo said: “In the coming days you will have my answer. Now we must just enjoy this moment. The future of one player is not important. We have made history.”
Ronaldo then tried to clarify his comments in a subsequent interview, though he also stood by his original comments that he could leave Real Madrid.
“I am not saying I am going, in the coming days we will see,” he said. “They took something out of context, that I should not have said. I did not know it would be so strong. I prefer not to talk and to enjoy this lovely moment to the maximum.
“I didn’t want to say that, but I’m not sorry either. These are situations which have been coming a long time and you put up with it, but sometimes you lose control. Things are not fixed with money, I have that, that is not a problem for me.
“I cannot guarantee that I will stay at Real Madrid, but this is not the moment to talk, as Madrid have made history, but neither am I going to hide. It is difficult to be at a better place than Madrid, the best club in the world, but life is not just about glory.”
Ronaldo said in December that he wanted a raise after helping Real win the Club World Cup. A month later, he felt betrayed by the Spanish giants for not getting an improved contract, according to reports in Spain that were later confirmed to ESPN FC by a source close to the player.
Ronaldo at that time told several Real teammates of his intention to leave Madrid at the end of the season, AS reported, after club president Florentino Perez promised Ronaldo a new contract shortly after he helped Los Blancos retain the Champions League last season.
However, sources close to Manchester United said in January they doubted any claims that Ronaldo really wants to leave Real Madrid to return to Old Trafford and that he was merely trying to force a better deal out of his current club.
The Portuguese superstar, 33, has played for Madrid since leaving Manchester United in 2009. He signed a contract until June 2021 in November 2016 and said then it would not be his last as a player.
Manager Zinedine Zidane didn’t understand why Ronaldo raised fresh doubts over his commitment, saying: “He must stay. He will stay with us.”
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez played down a public rift with Ronaldo when asked about the comments, but said the interests of the football club remained above those of any individual.
“Don’t ask me these things on a day like today,” Perez said in the mixed zone. “Everyone has the right to talk, but the most important thing here is the club, and we are all celebrating a Champions League win.
“I do not get into a player’s personal things. He has been happy, is happy, and will remain happy. It is not that he might stay, it is that he has a contract. Madrid is the most important, an institution with 13 European Cups.”
Asked about his relationship with Ronaldo, the long-serving club president pointed out that they had one thing in common — five victories in the Champions League over their careers.
“I am delighted that Cristiano has 5 European Cups, like me,” he said. “My relationship with Cristiano is very good. Three in a row, four in five years, and I keep to the script. They are all happy, you only have to look at how they played.”
Ronaldo won the European title for the fifth time in his career — the first player to do so in the Champions League era. Overall, he now only trails Paco Gento, who won six European Cups with Real Madrid from 1956 to 1966. Madrid became the first team to win three consecutive European Cups since the mid-1970s.
Though he didn’t find the net against Liverpool, Ronaldo finished as the top scorer in the Champions League this season with 15 goals. He has owned at least a share of the scoring title in each of the last six campaigns, and even suggested that they should rename the competition after him.
“For a sixth year in a row I am the top scorer in the best competition,” Ronaldo said. “I am not annoyed as when you do everything with your heart, you are not sorry about anything. I don’t want to take over from the unique moment of my teammates who deserve it, who are real champions. Thanks to them I have won so much.”
However, Ronaldo came up one goal behind Lionel Messi, who scored 45 times in all competitions, to lead all players from Europe’s top five leagues.
Gareth Bale also spoke about the uncertainty over his own future after scoring twice off the bench to lead Madrid past Liverpool.
But even with two top players speaking about potential exits, Perez said it would be difficult to improve this summer on a squad which has been dominating world football in recent years, despite a move for Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar much talked about in the local media.
“We have a great team, we have the best players in each position, which is why we have been leading world football in this age,” he said. “I would not mind not signing anybody. It is difficult to improve this team. I don’t know who we could go for.”
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan