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Ronaldo’s Man Utd to Real Madrid hints revealed by Nani as exit was planned months in advance

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Cristiano Ronaldo dropped hints about leaving Manchester United long before a record-breaking move to Real Madrid was pushed through, former team-mate Nani has revealed.

The Portuguese superstar was snapped up by the Red Devils from Sporting in the summer of 2003.

Six memorable years would be spent at Old Trafford, with a five-time Ballon d’Or winner collecting the first of his Golden Balls while in England – along with three Premier League titles and a Champions League crown.

A reputation was established as one of the finest players on the planet, with that standing having been enhanced since to now sit alongside the all-time greats.

Ronaldo has strived for continuous improvement throughout his career, with the 35-year-old needing to be tested and challenged.

That mindset has led him from his homeland to Juventus via Manchester and Madrid, with Nani conceding that a switch to Santiago Bernabeu was mulled over months before an agreement was reached.

He told United’s official podcast: “We would stay at the end of training to do competitions and they [Anderson & Ronaldo] were my team-mates, everyone has best friends or some they feel more comfortable with and they were my support.

“Some days he [Ronaldo] was telling us openly ‘I’m here six or seven years now, I think it’s enough for me’, he said that a couple of times.

“But it was always ‘I will see, I will see, I will see’ but we never thought it [Real Madrid move] would happen so fast. After we won the league in the second year he left, he produced a great season so we were still surprised.”

Nani Manchester United

Nani Manchester United

Four years after Ronaldo departed, Sir Alex Ferguson walked away from United as he headed into retirement.

Nani wanted to make a move of his own at that point, but hung around for another 12 months before eventually returning to Sporting on loan in 2014.

He added: “When he [Ferguson] wanted to leave I felt like I wanted to leave too. I was there so many years and now it’s a new coach and I think it’s time for me to challenge myself in a different team.

“Then I had a big injury, I recovered and went to the World Cup and the season after I was ready in my mind to leave the club. That’s it.”

Nani, who is now on the books of MLS side Orlando City, took in 230 appearances for United, and added on his decision to sever ties with the Red Devils: “I’ll tell you the truth. It will never be the same after leaving Manchester United to play for another club. It’s not the same.

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“As a club, as a structure, the quality: everyone knows that. I’m not offending anybody. Everyone knows that: that’s why Man Utd is Man Utd, all over the world.

“It was great to come back to Sporting because I came back home, close to my family and my friends. It was good to breathe a little bit, to recover and get some energy back and motivation, to find a new challenge.

“To tell the truth, it was a great season for Sporting for me that year. I played very well and in the Champions League I scored a couple of goals. I enjoyed the football a lot in that time.”

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