Gary Neville says Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure from Manchester United to Real Madrid was partly fuelled by the miserable British weather.
Manchester is notorious for its rainy climate and a direct contrast to sunny Spain where Ronaldo headed in 2009 when joining Madrid for a then world-record £80million.
Old Trafford legend Neville said Ronaldo had dropped hints about making the switch to the Bernabeu after United’s Champions League win over Chelsea in 2008.
And with the Portuguese star’s heart driving him back towards the continent, Neville admits he didn’t really try and change Ronaldo’s mind.
“So you were almost ready-prepared for it, you knew he was leaving the year after. It was coming, it was obvious that one day he would want to go and experience Madrid and La Liga.”
Ronaldo has since been linked with a return to Man Utd as financial issues continue to dominate in the Italian game and Neville continued about his departure: “I didn’t speak to Cristiano for instance about him staying at the club for longer. I think I may have said to him during the year when he was maybe… the weather was a big problem for Cristiano.
“I think he also wanted to obviously live in Spain and do La Liga. But the weather was a big problem for him and I felt like he’d almost travelled his path, he’d done the journey. And I didn’t feel that anything I was going to say was going to bring him out of that.”
Neville believes that with United top dogs in Europe after lifting the Champions League, there were few reasons why anyone would want to go.
“I think generally with players that were leaving there were very few who were leaving to go up. Now Cristiano you could argue going to Real Madrid and winning four or five European Cups is a step for him where he wanted to challenge himself,” said the former United and England right-back.
“The players that were leaving mainly were because they had come to the end of the road for one reason or another, either their contracts had run out, or their age was getting too much, or the manager had had a word with them saying they’re not going to play football too much anymore.
“Most of the players that left Man United would have wanted to stay. Let’s be clear, 99% of the players that left Man United during the time I was there would have stayed if the manager had said you’re staying. There’s only the one or two per cent who left against the wishes of the club.”
Ronaldo has since smashed records galore since leaving Old Trafford, scoring most goals in the history of the Champions League with 128.