As his teammates were still parading the trophy around the field at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium two months ago, fresh from a fourth Champions League victory in five years, Ronaldo was suggesting that, perhaps, this would be the last time he joined them.
“It has been very nice to be at Real Madrid,” he said. “In the next few days I will give an answer to the fans, because they have always been on my side.”
At first, the reaction — even among Real’s most ardent followers — was surprisingly muted; they did not seem unduly concerned even when, in the days that followed, their team’s most iconic player, its talisman, the driving force behind all of those Champions League victories, remained steadfastly silent.
In part, of course, that was because of the timing: there was a victory party scheduled for Madrid the day after the team returned from Ukraine; there was another triumph to exult in. Such worries could wait a little, until the euphoria had died down.