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The Cristiano Ronaldo saga may go down as one of the craziest and most incredible moves in the history of the transfer market. What happened behind the scenes? How was it possible that Manchester United hijacked the deal when Manchester City had been working on bringing the striker in for days? 

The foundation for Ronaldo's return to Old Trafford began to take shape on Thursday night. That's when the deal of the year was born. Behind the scenes over the previous week, Ronaldo had begun to make it clear that he wanted an exit from the club, and it's why he was not in the starting XI when Juventus opened the Serie A season against Udinese. The Portuguese superstar, along with manager Massimiliano Allegri, decided it was best to keep him on the bench as he evaluated potential opportunities on the transfer market. The fact that Juventus publicly made statements about their desire to keep Ronaldo did not stop his agent Jorge Mendes from exploring all options.

As soon as it became clear last Sunday that Ronaldo was angling a move away from Italy, his agent began to deal directly with Manchester City. The Cityzens were interested in the idea of signing Ronaldo because their main transfer target at striker, Harry Kane, had agreed to stay at Tottenham after Spurs chairman Daniel Levy simply did not budge and rejected all proposals, including a €150 million bid. The negotiation for Ronaldo between Mendes and Manchester City was only verbal, as no official offers were sent to Juventus because City did not intend to pay any transfer fee for the 36-year-old attacker. They were very clear with Mendes that they wanted a free move or nothing at all.

On Thursday morning, Juventus met with Jorge Mendes in Turin to inform him that Ronaldo will not leave without a fee paid. Their request for €28 million was negotiable, but they refused to let Ronaldo leave for free, which only heightened the tension between the two parties with time running out. That same day Ronaldo reached out to Allegri to inform him that his time at Juventus was over. City, on the other hand, still had no intention of making official offers to pay Juventus for Ronaldo. They were only in talks with Mendes on Ronaldo's contract, but not with Juventus on the price.

During this developing standoff, Manchester United entered the picture on Thursday night with a phone call from Mendes igniting the idea to the board and Solskjaer. The club's legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson was in favor and made it known to the club. Ferguson actively pushed for the deal to happen, and he wasn't alone. Bruno Fernandes, his Portugal teammate,  called Ronaldo directly, and that's when the enthusiasm took off in all areas of the club. A verbal agreement on Ronaldo's contract until 2023 was quickly reached that night between the United board and Mendes.

Friday morning was used to prepare the offer to Juventus and overcome City's competition. As soon as United's offer becomes known, the Cityzens abandoned the negotiation by lunchtime with no intention of looking back and being involved in a bidding war as they remained serious about not paying a transfer fee. So the United board prepared a proposal that became official by Friday afternoon when Juventus immediately accepted the offer: Ronaldo to United for €15 million, plus €8 million in add-ons, some of which are easily accessible. Ronaldo had already given the OK to the contract just before leaving for Lisbon directly from Turin on a private flight so that he and his family can be with Mendes to finalize the deal. And that's the how one phone call and the support from one of the team's legends played a factor into turning an idea to an official transfer in less than 24 hours. The transfer market never ceases to amaze.

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