LONDON — Manchester United accepted a world record transfer offer for Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid on Thursday, clearing the World Player of the Year to negotiate personal terms with the Spanish club.
The Premier League champions received an unconditional offer of 80 million pounds ($131 million) for Ronaldo, and unlike in the last offseason manager Alex Ferguson told the Glazer family which owns the club that he is willing to see his 24-year-old star performer join a major European rival.
United said: "At Cristiano's request — who has again expressed his desire to leave — and after discussion with the player's representatives, United have agreed to give Real Madrid permission to talk to the player.
"Matters are expected to be concluded by 30 June."
Madrid confirmed the offer for Ronaldo in a statement, saying: "The club hopes to reach an agreement with the player in the coming days."
The Portugal winger, who joined from Sporting Lisbon in 2003, spent last June pushing for what he called at the time a "dream move" to Madrid.
An unsuccessful complaint about Madrid's pursuit was made to football's world governing body FIFA and a move was blocked by United manager Alex Ferguson, who traveled to Lisbon to persuade his player to stay at Old Trafford.
That didn't stop Ronaldo being linked with Madrid and Ferguson's irritation boiled over in December when he said he "wouldn't sell Madrid a virus," describing the club as a "mob."
But now a world-record bid — even if it means losing those feints, stepovers and thunderous free kicks — appears too hard to resist.
"It was the manager's decision and it was supported by the board," a spokesman for owner Malcolm Glazer told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
"The deal hasn't even been done yet so we don't know how much money will be available and it would be inappropriate to comment on the use of the funds."
But it is understood that the profits will not be used to service United's debts, which have spiraled to almost $1 billion.
Ronaldo, who was contracted to United until 2012, plunged his future into doubt after losing the Champions League final to Barcelona last month, saying he wasn't sure if would stay next season. This was despite having vowed to stay at United in the buildup to the match and even in a broadcast interview conducted with himself.
The return of Florentino Perez as Madrid's president has changed things as the billionaire looks to spend to return the Spanish side to the glory days of its "galactico" era.
Kaka was signed from AC Milan earlier this week for a reported fee of around €65 million ($92 million).
But the offer for Ronaldo would eclipse that and the $65 million it paid to get former France striker Zinedine Zidane from Juventus in 2001.
Madrid will hope Ronaldo's arrival could strengthen its position as world football's richest club based on revenue. According to accountancy firm Deloitte, Madrid earned €365.8 million compared to second-place United's €324.8 million.
On the pitch, though, Ronaldo would be joining a club which just had its first trophyless season in three years, while United won a third straight Premier League title, the Club World Cup, and the League Cup.
Ronaldo finished United's top scorer again, despite not matching the 42-goal haul in the 2007-8 campaign when Ferguson's side won the Champions League and the English title.
However, Ronaldo was viewed by some as a divisive influence at United, openly challenging Ferguson's authority.
In the last weeks of the season he angrily swiped at some TV equipment while shaking his head in clear annoyance when substituted against Manchester City. When he missed a shot against Wigan, he answered Ferguson back from the pitch while shrugging his shoulders.
Former United manager Tommy Docherty said Thursday that relations were clearly strained with Ferguson, as they had been with David Beckham before he was allowed to join Madrid in 2003.
"You can't have disharmony," said Docherty, who was manager between 1972-77. "With 80 million, they should cut their hands off with Ronaldo and run and give Real Madrid the problem."
A potential replacement is plying his trade a few miles north of Manchester in Wigan: 23-year-old Ecuador winger Antonio Valencia, who has been linked with a move to Old Trafford by British media.
United could also spend part of the windfall on paying the 25.5 million pounds required to turn Carlos Tevez's loan deal, which expires at the end of June, into a permanent contract.