Brazilian superstar Neymar has constantly been linked with Real Madrid, while Cristiano Ronaldo's time at Los Blancos seems to be approaching its end. Should the Spanish giants give into the Portuguese's salary demands, or has the time come to replace him with the world's most expensive player ever?
Click through the gallery to see the five highest earners at Real, according to Total Sportek.
Many were taken aback by Ronaldo's comments following Los Blancos' 3-1 UEFA Champions League final win over Liverpool two weeks ago, when he surprisingly revealed he was considering his future at the club. The forward's claim slightly overshadowed Real's historic three-peat, leading fans to question what it is that could have possibly caused his frustration.
In the past, Ronaldo was always offered a new deal at the club whenever he appeared to be unhappy, and for the forward to so candidly speak about his discontent on one of the most important nights in Real's history, his feelings had to be strong. Perhaps he felt underappreciated and maybe even, due to his age, insecure.
Days after Ronaldo's controversial remarks, a friend of the forward, journalist Nuno Gomes, claimed that Florentino Perez had promised the player he would be getting an improved deal this season. This did not materialise, however, and reports even suggested that the attacker was feeling dissatisfied long before the final in Kyiv. Gomes, in an interview with Cadena SER, hinted that Ronaldo feels underpaid at Real, especially after the success he has almost singlehandedly brought the club in Europe since his arrival in 2009.
The concern from Real's side might be that the forward is 33 years old, and even though he is Ronaldo, Los Blancos' greatest goalscorer in history, a five-time Ballon d'Or winner, and a five-time Champions League winner, he is not getting any younger. Unfortunately, beyond his unprecedented success, football is a business and, after all, this is Real Madrid – a club where not many players retire. In fact, Zinedine Zidane is the last player to have hung up his boots while playing for the Spanish giants.
Perhaps this is even one of the reasons for Los Blancos' unmatched success. There is no place for sentiment inside the Real dressing room. Even greats such as Raul Gonzalez, Iker Casillas and Guti were forced to move elsewhere if they wanted to continue playing regularly.
Now, does Perez give into Ronaldo's salary demands, or has the time finally come to focus on their next chapter? The club may never be able to replace their Portuguese talisman, who has scored 450 goals in 438 games for them, but for a team that has always had the biggest names on their register, Neymar is the next best thing and, perhaps, the only player in world football who could soften the blow of losing Ronaldo, but it must be one or the other.
It is unrealistic to imagine Real having Ronaldo and Neymar on their books at the same time. Firstly, both players earn huge salaries at their respective clubs, and perhaps it wouldn't be worth spending about £260 million (R3.9 billion) on a player who would only play second fiddle to another player. If Neymar found it difficult taking dead-ball duties off Edinson Cavani at Paris Saint-Germain, he should try doing so to Ronaldo.
Although supporters would love to see two mega stars such as Ronaldo and Neymar line up alongside one another, it could cause complications. When the Portuguese was recently asked if he believes Neymar will join the club, he dismissively responded: "The best players are already at Real Madrid." It has also been speculated that Real's interest in Neymar is what is concerning Ronaldo. He reportedly feels upset the club are ready to spend big money on the Selecao star while they seemingly remain unwilling to give him a bumper new deal.
In the midst of all the tension and, to an extent, confusion, it is important we understand this situation is very real. Ronaldo is frustrated at the Spanish giants, and Neymar is the club's dream signing. The Brazilian embodies what Los Blancos are about. He is the perfect heir to Ronaldo's throne. Perez wants Neymar, and Neymar wants Real, and the Brazilian got a taste of life at the club when he trained with them as a teenager before his eventual move to FC Barcelona.
To keep Ronaldo happy, Real might offer him a new contract that only improve his £365 000 (R6.2 million) weekly wage, and does not extend his stay, which is currently set to expire in 2021. Considering that it might be impossible to convince PSG to sell Neymar in this window, waiting until next season while at the same time pleasing the Portuguese might be their best bet. Change is around the corner for the most successful team in Europe. The end of an era is approaching, but so is the start of a new one.
Do you think Neymar is the player who can fill Ronaldo's boots at Real? Let us know in the comments section below.