Manchester UnitedÂ Â have finally caved in to Real Madridâ€™s repeated attempts to lure Cristiano Ronaldo away from Old Trafford.
United confirmed yesterday morning they had accepted an Â£80million bid for the world player of the year, with a world-record deal expected to go through by June 30.
The news had been expected given that Real stated on Wednesday night talks were under way and now it is only a matter of finalising the playerâ€™s personal terms before he completes a dream move to the Bernabeu.
Real president Florentino Perez had already vowed to do â€œeverything possibleâ€ to sign the 24-year-old and, unlike 12 months ago, Sir Alex Ferguson did not even attempt to talk Ronaldo round, knowing the former Sporting Lisbon player had his heart set on a move.
A United statement read: â€œAt the request of Cristiano â€” who has again expressed his desire to leave â€” and after discussion with the playerâ€™s representatives, United have agreed to give Real Madrid permission toÂ talk toÂ the player.
â€œMatters are expected to be concluded by 30 June. The club will not comment until further notice.â€
The news is bound to be greeted with some scepticism by United fans, who have repeatedly been told no deal had been agreed for the sale of FIFAâ€™s World Player of the Year in the face of regular statements from Spain the former Sporting Lisbon star was bound for the Bernabeu.
It was even suggested Ronaldo would be due a Â£20million compensation fee from Real if the deal did not go through by June 30, the date United now state themselves as when they expect matters to be concluded.
As it now seems a matter of when, rather than if, a world-record transfer will be completed, Ferguson might wish to explain why he has gone back on his famous comment in December last year that he would not â€œsell that mob a virusâ€.
It is the first time for many years United will have allowed a player to leave they were not happy about losing. Yet some supporters may be pleased that at least another drawn-out transfer saga, such as the one 12 months ago, is not played out in public.
And at least the money could be reinvested in a squad that almost, but not quite, proved good enough to win back-to-back Champions League trophies, in addition to a hat-trick of Premier League titles.
And, in reshaping a squad that looks almost certain to lose Carlos Tevez as well, Ferguson might be able to offer Wayne Rooney a more permanent central striking role and fulfill the promise he has shown on the international stage this season.
The name of Bayern Munichâ€™s Franck Ribery is bound to crop up as a potential replacement, although the 27-year-old seems hugely overpriced at the Â£40million figure being bandied about in some quarters, with Wiganâ€™s Antonio Valencia also in the frame.
Ferguson will certainly be making plans already to ensure his new faces are on board before United head to Asia for their pre-season tour five weeks from yesterday.
Amid the frenzy over Ronaldoâ€™s impending departure, it is bound to be asked whether the current debt hanging over United of almost Â£700million has played any part in the decision to accept Realâ€™s huge bid.
While Ferguson has always backed the Glazer family for the support he has received, supporters will now be interested to see whether their manager is handed all the funds received from Spain, plus an annual transfer kitty said to be around Â£25million.
With Edwin van der Sar, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville all reaching the end of their careers, it promises to be a far more testing summer than Ferguson might have realised.
And, for all the petulance and pouting for which Ronaldo is so famed, filling the void created by the loss of his immense talent may prove difficult.