LONDON • Manchester United's attempt to bring Cristiano Ronaldo back to Old Trafford this summer was halted by concerns raised with Real Madrid by the father of Kylian Mbappe, who last week moved from Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain.
The Sunday Times has been informed that Ronaldo - who last month told a Spanish court that he "would like to go back to England" - had made it clear to United that he would return to the club, and that Real were open to negotiating the sale.
Persuaded that Ronaldo's frustration - prompted by a tax case opened against him by Madrid's regional state prosecutor - was genuine, Real president Florentino Perez spent much of the summer working on a deal to bring Mbappe to the Bernabeu.
Perez's plan was to couple an expected £100 million-plus (S$175.82 million) transfer fee from selling Ronaldo back to United with savings on the player's £19 million after-tax annual salary to purchase the teenage France international.
Personal terms were agreed with Mbappe and his principal adviser, his father Wilfried. Real also committed to meeting Monaco's asking price for the 18-year-old - which at that point stood at more than €180 million (S$289.87 million).
Mbappe and his father, however, informed Perez that the player was not prepared to move to Madrid as a replacement for Ronaldo.
According to sources, Real were told that the forward would not accept the pressure involved in arriving in Real's first team as the heir apparent to an individual who has won the Ballon d'Or thrice during his time in Spain.
Amount - S$289.87 million - Monaco wanted for Kylian Mbappe, which Real Madrid were willing to meet if they sold Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United
Rather than sell the 32-year-old Ronaldo to United, Perez then offered Gareth Bale to the Premier League club.
Though Bale refused to cooperate with an enforced sale back to the Premier League, Real continued discussions with Mbappe to the point where the player had verbally committed to signing for them.
Then, at the end of the first week of August, he elected to join Paris Saint-Germain instead.
There is now fear in Spain that Ronaldo will leave Real sooner or later - furious at being accused of failing to pay €14.7 million on earnings between 2011 and 2014. So, too, Lionel Messi.
The Argentinian forward has had a contract offer in front of him worth a basic €62 million a year since July, one that by Barcelona's own account was meant to be signed "when Messi returns to the team for pre-season training".
It remains unsigned, and in the meantime, the player's representatives have held a clandestine lunch meeting with Manchester City, whose chief executive and football director explored the possibility of acquiring Messi next summer when his Camp Nou deal expires.
THE TIMES, LONDON