Cristiano Ronaldo transfer: 'One million replica shirts by Christmas'
13 June 2009 06:09
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In Real's eyes, Ronaldo is the 'Golden Goose' of merchandising, the global icon they have lacked since David Beckham's departure to LA Galaxy in 2007. Acquiring Ronaldo, or so says the blueprint of president Florentino Perez, secures a football-obsessed constituency of more than a billion people in the lucrative Far East market.
Beckham's £25m purchase from Manchester United in 2003 reportedly doubled Real's shirt sales in the Far East, but while the white shirt became more prevalent, United red continued to thrive in the region, even without Beckham.
Ronaldo's departure was thought to be bad news for the millions of Asian supporters, particularly those in Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea and China who had been expecting to the see the 24-year-old during United's Far East tour in July.
But Taewoon Park, a journalist for the Sports Seoul newspaper, says that Ronaldo's departure will actually be welcomed. He said: "I am convinced that Ronaldo leaving will not affect United' popularity in Korea.
"Actually, some Korean supporters are pleased about it because Ronaldo's attitude and desire to leave for Real Madrid made them so tired. Such character-collapsing team chemistry cannot be allowed in Korea, which has very strong organisational or community culture.
"Sure, Ronaldo is very popular, but he is not the single most favourite football personality. In Korea, it is Ji-sung Park. Recent research demonstrated that 75 per cent of Korean football fans selected United as their favourite European club, ahead of Real Madrid, Barcelona and AC Milan.
"The United supporters will continue to support United, just as they did when Beckham and Ruud van Nistelrooy left."
United's supporters in the region are also sanguine. "It certainly would disappoint many Man U fans here because lots of them love him and want to see him in Jakarta," said Yudi Prihartano, of an independent fans' group in Indonesia. "But there are lots of other stars in the team so it won't matter much."