As the old saying goes, money talks and Cristiano Ronaldo is listening. The 23-year-old Portugese superstar finally ended his silence in an exclusive interview with respected Brazilian website Terra he is reported as stating: “I would like to play for Real Madrid but only if it is true they are ready to pay what Manchester United ask of them. However, it does not depend on me.”

Reports are that he wants to leave Man Utd for the £300,000-a-week wage packet being offered to him by Real Madrid. This despite the fact that Ronaldo signed a five-year contract extension with Manchester United last April, tying him to the club until the end of the 2011-12 season. The Real Madrid offer is double the wages he is currently making at Old Trafford.

In order for Ronaldo to join Real Madrid, United would first have to agree to sell him, but its plain to see that Madrid will need to break the bank to buy the Portuguese winger. Recent reports suggested Madrid would consider tabling a £150m offer to United for the services of the Portuguese star, who joined the English club from Sporting Lisbon in 2003. Madrid already holds the record for the biggest transfer fee in soccer history, paying Italian team Juventus £46m for the services of Zinedine Zidane in 2001. They would need to far exceed that to satisfy United.

The other possibility is of a cash + players deal, which would break apart a successful squad that captain Raul has urged the management to keep together. Players that have been mentioned as going as compensation are formidable talents like Sergio Ramos and Robinho.

There are plenty of reasons for these two superclubs to be fighting over the services of Ronaldo. He scored 42 goals in all competitions for United this season, helping the Red Devils claim its second consecutive Premier League title and to win the Champions League. He was named the top player in the English Premier League and is also the odds-on favourite to win the FIFA world player of the year award in December.

There are also rumblings that Barcelona are preparing to rival Real Madrid in the race to sign the Portuguese forward. The last time these two clubs fought over a player from Manchester United as back in 2006 when David Beckham was sold by United. United accepted a £25m bid from Barca before selling the midfielder to Real for the same fee. Beckham has no interest in joining Barcelona, as he felt he was being used as a political pawn by Joan Laporta. Laporta was campaigning to become Barcelona president and seemed to be using the Beckham signing as a way of upping his profile with the voters.

As Sid Lowe of the Guardian wrote this morning, Real Madrid president Ramón Calderón is still unpopular despite two successive titles and he has missed out on signing the players he promised to sign,like Cesc Fabregas and Kaká, during his presidential campaign. This could mean that despite the cost, financially or financially + players going to United, Calderón could be desperate to make a big statement.

Ronaldo has said that he will not speak of his future again until after the European Championships but expect the media to stir up a frenzy. A strong showing at Euro 2008 would only serve to drive up the price on Ronaldo, perhaps to the point where a deal is untenable.

I remain skeptical (this could just be a negotiating ploy for Ronaldo to up his United wages yet again) but it looks like my initial hunches about this were wrong.