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 Friday, August 2, 2002 22:24 EST

Real Madrid not willing to pay huge sum for Brazilian star


MADRID -- Ronaldo's agent has told Real Madrid the Brazilian striker is ready to leave Inter Milan, the Spanish club's sporting director Jorge Valdano revealed on Friday.

Valdano played down the chances of Ronaldo joining the galaxy of stars at the Bernabeu, though, saying Real was only "relatively" interested in the player, who led Brazil to World Cup glory by topping the scoring chart with eight goals.

Real would not be prepared to pay an "astronomical" sum to bring Ronaldo to the Bernabeu, Valdano said, and would not even consider a bid unless Inter decided it was ready to sell.

"Ronaldo's agent (Alexandre Martins) informed us that the player's intention is to leave Inter Milan," said Valdano, who was speaking in response to claims on a Spanish radio station that Real had signed the World Cup winner.

"I immediately spoke to Inter Milan directors, because we have a non-aggression pact with their club.

"The agent asked us if Real Madrid could be interested and what we want to make clear is that we would make no move unless Inter decided they wanted to sell.

"At the moment Inter Milan are not prepared to sell and Real Madrid are not prepared to buy.

"Some time ago, when some figures were put on the table, we were so far away we couldn't even get to 50 percent."

Real president Florentino Perez broke the transfer record twice in his first two years in charge to bring in Luis Figo for $56 million from Barcelona and Zinedine Zidane for $66 million from Juventus.

He would likely need to shell out an even greater figure for the game's biggest name but another high-profile signing is not such a high priority.

"It's wrong to raise false expectations," Perez told Antena 3 television before Real's preseason friendly against Liverpool.

"Not every player is a priority for us."

Valdano also made that point in his hastily arranged news conference.

"Ronaldo is not part of Real Madrid's strategy," Valdano said. "Our interest in him is relative. If one day he came on the market we would analyze the situation.

"He's a great player and Real Madrid are always interested in great players.

"If an astronomical figure us being talked about Real Madrid have got nothing to say. If in the future a great opportunity came up things could be different, though."

Inter poured cold water on a move.

The official website asserted: "The excellent relationship between Real Madrid and Inter has meant that in the shortest time the two clubs have been in contact and have immediately verified that not even the minimal conditions exist to start this discussion."

Ronaldo has experience of the Spanish game, having played a season at Real's great rivals Barcelona after moving to the Nou Camp in 1996 for a then world record $19.5 million.

He scored 33 goals in 38 games that season as Barcelona won the European Cup Winners' Cup before joining Inter Milan for another world record fee of $27.9 million.

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