By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
The final piece of the Decima puzzle? Real Madrid president Florentino Perez certainly hopes so. Cristiano Ronaldo's renewal at the club represents fantastic news for the Spanish side after what has been a spectacular summer of transfer activity at the Santiago Bernabeu. But more than Isco, Gareth Bale or anyone else, the new deal for the Portuguese is Madrid's ultimate signing. Now, however, trophies must follow.
For Perez and Ronaldo himself, Sunday's show signified satisfaction: the Madrid president has spoken all summer of his desire and his belief that Cristiano would commit to a new long-term contract, while the player's priority was always to stay in Spain.
That is now a reality. The new deal makes Ronaldo the world's best-paid player in a five-year agreement which will see him bring in close to €20 million per annum. It is yet another vast outlay in a project which has already costs hundreds of millions. But Cristiano is the cornerstone and, while fans struggled to stomach the departure of Mesut Ozil to Arsenal earlier this month, failure to secure the services of Ronaldo would have brought genuine disillusion and disenchantment to the Bernabeu faithful.
|RONALDO AT REAL MADRID: 2009-
La Liga titles
The importance of Cristiano cannot be understated: with 203 goals in as many games (Perez must have included the strike against Real Sociedad in 2010-11, which was awarded by Marca but not by the match officials in his count of 204), the Portuguese has dragged the team through numerous tests over the past four seasons. And, now that he is set to stay until 2018, the 28-year-old seems certain to become the club's all-time top goalscorer (currently Raul, with 323 strikes).
"I hope to score another 200 goals over the next four years," Ronaldo revealed. But he added: "Records are there to be broken, but it's not the most important thing - the most important thing is to win trophies."
So far, however, he has only three to his name since signing for the Spanish side in the summer of 2009: one Liga title, one Copa del Rey and a Supercopa de Espana. It's the one area of his Real report card which needs improvement. Goalscoring? Excellent. Match-winning? Top marks. Titles? Must do better.
That's not Ronaldo's fault, of course; he has done more than any other player to bring success to the Santiago Bernabeu over the last few seasons. However, he has seen his time in Spain coincide with the best Barcelona side in history and been left on the cusp of greatness in Europe as Madrid have suffered three successive semi-final exits in the Champions League.
Perez will be delighted at the marketing opportunities from five more years of Ronaldo at the capital club. "Four years ago," he said, "this stadium was full - and there was no game being played. It was for Cristiano." However, he is clearly conscious that Cristiano can be the man to fire the side to greater heights on the pitch over the coming seasons - and not only on rich-lists. So, even though Gareth Bale's buy has eclipsed the fee paid for Ronaldo at an estimated €100 million, the Portuguese remains the firm foundation of the Perez project; selling shirts and winning football matches, Cristiano is the game-changer - both on and off the pitch.
Perhaps symbolically, Ronaldo's new terms will be in place after Tuesday night's Champions League clash against Galatasaray. "I am sure we will win La Decima with Cristiano," Perez predicted earlier in the summer. Now the Spanish side will have at least five more opportunities to turn that forecast from fantasy to reality. And the puzzle will be complete.
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