The saying goes that happiness cannot be bought. Almost a year to the day that Cristiano Ronaldo announced to the world that he was not an entirely happy camper, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez provided something for the Portuguese superstar to crack a smile about: a new contract approaching €20 million a year.
The deal, which has been at the top of Perez's inbox for quite some time, was apparently arranged before the summer and the lengthy transfer soap opera surrounding new boy Gareth Bale. Be that as it may, the timing of the announcement is no accident. Real Madrid went to great lengths to obscure the genuine value of Bale's transfer to the Bernabeu, even if Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy didn't feel like playing that particular sort of ball. Quite the opposite, in fact; Levy was insistent that the Welshman's fee was a world record. Real denied this, for patently obvious reasons.
Ronaldo is a unique player, a thoroughbred athlete and, in spite of a tendency to pout and preen, a consummate professional who plays through injury and has become far more of a team player since his arrival in Madrid. But that doesn't mean that he would enjoy playing second fiddle financially to Bale or anybody else, any more than he does in a sporting sense to Lionel Messi in the awards stakes.
Whatever the true cost of bringing Bale to the capital -- and the vagaries of performance add-ons and such are always in the kind of small print that requires a microscope -- Ronaldo is now the highest-paid player in the world. Zlatan Ibrahimovic nets a reported €17 million at PSG, and Samuel Eto'o has taken a massive cut (in relative terms -- he'll hardly struggle to get to the end of the month) to join Chelsea after the "Anzhi project" imploded. Messi has to scratch by on €13 million basic, with around €3 million in bonuses.
There is little doubt that Ronaldo is worth every penny. On the field he has scored a goal for every game he has played in the white shirt (204), and if you need a match turned, having Ronaldo on the pitch is a guarantee of finding the right direction. Of course, Real expects the same from Bale, and while a goal in his debut might not have been enough to see off a Villarreal side in the ascendancy Saturday, it will certainly have helped the Welshman settle in. Many eye-watering signings have required weeks, or even months, to open their account. Ronaldo provided the second in El Madrigal in a plot line that will become as predictable as one of Woody Allen's European scripts as the domestic season unfolds.
"The agreement has made me extremely happy," said Ronaldo, who has signed until 2018, at a brief presentation at the Bernabeu on Sunday. "It is a privilege to continue to play here. My ambition and my competitive spirit will continue. I am very grateful to the president and to the fans, who have always supported me. Money is not the priority. It's important, of course, but not the most important thing. The priority was the future project, with the best club in the world. It doesn't matter if I'm the first-, second- or third-best-paid player in the world because I am very happy here."
Rob Train is a freelance football writer who lives in the Spanish capital and covers Real Madrid for ESPN. He works for the English language version of Spanish national daily El Pais and contributes to a number of other publications