"My idea was to always be here. I'm being honest, I never said I wanted to leave. I'm just very happy that I have renewed and I want to stay here for the rest of my career."
Those were the words of Sergio Ramos earlier this week, as he officially signed a new five-year contract with Real Madrid. The delay, he claimed, on penning the new deal, was not down to financial benefit. It wasn't about his pay-packet, but merely his desire to iron out the personal and professional issues he'd recently had with the ten-time European champions.
The 29-year-old had become disillusioned with the fact that Real Madrid President Florentino Perez had chosen to sack La Decima winning coach Carlo Ancelotti in May.
That was the suggested root of the problem. Though a matter of weeks later, long-serving goalkeeper and a known close friend of Ramos, Iker Casillas, was unceremoniously shipped out of the club he'd represented at various levels for 25 years. Ramos, who has now succeeded Casillas as the club's longest-serving player, looked on with reported disgust.
Or so we were led to believe. Various Spanish football 'experts' had decided to inform us that Ramos was finished with Madrid, following the treatment of two of his most favoured club personnel. And while he's since admitted that such issues irked him, it was reported too that Ramos wanted to embark upon a new challenge, in a new league. Enter Manchester United.
Incoming offers and various discussions ensued. But underneath it all, you'd always get a sense that this prospective transfer was to be another of United's failed ventures. Just look at their attempted raids on Madrid cornerstones in the past and their lack of progress as they attempted to pull off the outrageous transfer dealings.
They'd come up short with approaches for Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale in previous windows and while they were able to snatch away the undervalued (in a playing sense in Madrid, and by no means financially) Angel di Maria in a British record deal a year ago, still only the eternal United optimist would have backed them to pull off the Ramos transfer.
It was though, a path that Ramos was faced with and considered. He admitted on Monday that "if it was an economic decision I wouldn't have stayed" - so United had definitely thrown their hat(ful of cash) into the ring. Their offer was revealed to be superior to the Spaniards'.
If it was a big pay-day Ramos was chasing, that's what he would have got at the Theatre of Dreams.
Despite his denial, money played some factor in Ramos' summer of uncertainty - he wouldn't have held out for a pay increase otherwise - but there's just something about Real Madrid. They and Barcelona have a pull that no English club can match - especially when it comes to Spanish and South American players.
United were always punching above their weight. But while Ramos may have been a pipe dream, even for optimistic members of the board, you'd think, the only redeeming feature (as it's been played up in some quarters) of their long chase has been the fact that they've managed to use Ramos as leverage against Real Madrid's interest in signing goalkeeper David de Gea.
As we've established, Real Madrid are the pinnacle for Spanish footballers - Ramos and De Gea share something in common in that sense. And you can hardly blame the 24-year-old stopper for having his heartstrings tugged. They are, after all, based in his home city. But still, at this present time, he remains a Manchester United player.
Now that the Ramos saga has finally ended, however, it begs the question: was that the wisest move?
What United now have is a player in the wrong frame of mind - considering it makes him unable to keep goal for the club - and he's been watching on from the stands for United's opening games of the season. Throw in the fact that De Gea now has ten months remaining on his contract and by next summer United will end up losing him on a free transfer anyway.
That's if Real don't snap him up before hand. It seems as though United have just been attempting to save face by standing up to Real Madrid's transfer market pull, but it's a battle they're set to lose sooner or later. Some situations are best just sorted quickly and who's to say De Gea - with his mind elsewhere - will even hit the same form as he's done in the last two seasons anyway?
United's determination to be seen in a position of strength is admirable, but perhaps it's a case of the smaller animal attempting to stand up to the leader of the pack. Whether their desire to sign Ramos was true or merely a smokescreen, the saga overall has been a complete farce from a United sense.
Eventually, they'll end up as the losers in this case - whether they finish out of pocket or without their number one (or perhaps even both) - and Real Madrid will again just get what they've wanted all along.
Hala Madrid, and all that.
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