Manchester United are said to be looking at ways of bringing Cristiano Ronaldo back to the club this summer.
After his emotional return to Old Trafford last week, it appears both Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United are even keener on making a sensational summer switch happen.
With United being outbid for players like Luka Modric and Lucas Moura last summer, at around £30-35 million, the obvious question is how could United afford to bring Ronaldo back even if his price was lowered to the suggested £55 million mark?
The first obstacle is the incoming Financial Fair Play regulations, both by UEFA and the Premier League. United have been among those pushing for them so it will be unfortunate that they will be one of the clubs trying to work around them.
United are due an influx of money via their shirt sponsorship deal with Chevrolet which begins in 2014-15. But it is being reported that General Motors, who own the Chevrolet brand are in discussions with Red Devils about buying out existing sponsors Aon from the final year of their contract which is due to begin this summer.
This may not be as complicated as it sounds, as United managed to negotiate with DHL to end their sponsorship of the club's training kit a year early, it ends this summer and they announced last month they have re-sold it for a better value to begin next season, thought to be with GM.
Yet the very objective of United and General Motors looking to buy out Aon and begin their sponsorship a year early appears to be to provide the club with cash to finance a return for Cristiano Ronaldo.
Nike are also claimed to be in talks with United about bringing their new deal forward with the club, with the very same objective.
These moves will not only be well ahead of any FFP regulations, but that isn't the controversial aspect here from our perspective,
What appears a little at least morally suspect is the complicated third party ownership issues. Now clearly if Chevrolet/GM/Nike financed a return for Ronaldo, they would not be third party owners.
Not only is the agreement banned in English football - in the wake of the Tevez affair - but there are moves afoot by UEFA to ban the practice globally.
Legally United or their sponsors will not be doing anything wrong - spending sponsor money on players goes on every season and is perfectly legitimate, but this appears to be so specific that from a moral perspective United could be opening themselves up a great big can of worms.
Their sponsors will not be named third party owners, but what if they started to act like ones?
What if Cristiano Ronaldo, as unlikely as it sounds, suffered a dip in form or had a falling out with Sir Alex Ferguson and was dropped to the bench for a month.
How long would the sponsors stay silent behind the scenes? From bring a silent partner, having helped United bring back their former icon, they will feel the club owes it to them to keep him in the spotlight.
He will be Manchester United's player, on the paperwork at least, but the sponsors will feel like he is theirs. After all they will have paid for him.
Mostly the money sponsors put into a club is to be spent at the manager and club's discretion, but the stakes in the potential Ronaldo transfer are so high it will be impossible for the companies involved not to keep a vested interest; especially when the money is being put in for such a specific reason.
It could create major ruptions behind the scenes at United, whether the public or media see them or not, and despite their desperation to do a deal for Ronaldo, the club may just have to be careful about how they go about it and think through all potential repercussions.
What do you think about a sponsor-financed deal to bring back Ronaldo? Genius or asking for trouble?
image: © gordonflood