A year ago Cristiano Ronaldo's return looked far from certain.
The superstar had a contract which would be expiring in the summer of 2015, and Real would be forced into a tricky situation.
A refusal to sign a new deal led to stand-off between Real Madrid and the player, which was only resolved in August.
Rio Ferdinand has admitted trying to talk Ronaldo back into a return to Manchester United, and after winning the Ballon d'Or this week, the Madrid man admitted he was tempted.
Sky Sports reported: "It was true that Rio Ferdinand spoke to me a lot to try and make me come back to United,"
"Rio is a great friend of mine, we played many years together at Manchester United and we were neighbours when I was there.
"He's a fantastic guy and tried to change my mind to go back to Manchester.
"I did think about United, they are still in my heart. It's a club where I played for six years, I love the club. I have a lot friends there and I wish them the best."
What we will never know is if Sir Alex Ferguson announcing his intention to quit the club last May proved the tipping point for Ronaldo to pledge his future for Madrid.
There had appeared to be gathering momentum for a Ronaldo return, with it reported in the same month that outgoing chief executive David Gill had flown to Spain to meet with agent Jorge Mendes to discuss options.
Whether Ronaldo was holding out for more money at Madrid, waiting to see if Jose Mourinho would be sacked, or purely hesitant on whether he wanted to go to Manchester United is unclear.
Yet the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson will not have helped. The Scotsman was seen by Ronaldo as a father figure, as shown by their respectful embrace after the Champions League clash at Old Trafford.
David Moyes, for this is not a criticism, does not possess the same pull - nor the relationship with him Sir Alex did to help clinch such a deal. How close United could have come to securing a deal, we may never know, and Ronaldo may never let on.
image: © marcel sigg