Cristiano Ronaldo's agent has spoken of a "new challenge" for his client "should Cristiano leave Real Madrid," amid burgeoning reports that Juventus are closing in on a deal.
Jorge Mendes did not mention Juventus by name when speaking to Portuguese news outlet Record. But when asked about the Italian champions, the super agent discussed the ramifications of his biggest client opting to switch teams.
"If he leaves, it will be a new challenge for him," Mendes said. "Should Cristiano leave Real Madrid he will be eternally grateful to the club, to the president, to the entire front office, the medical team and all the staff, without exception, as well as all the fans all around the world."
Mendes' statement is not confirmation that a move is in the cards, as he and Ronaldo have pushed for a new contract from Real Madrid for over a year and have previously used the prospect of leaving the club as leverage. In May, Ronaldo also spoke of his time at the Bernabeu in the past tense, saying, "It's been very nice playing for Real Madrid."
But Mendes' comment was his agency's first on the record amid widespread reports linking Ronaldo to a €100 million transfer to Juventus.
Earlier on Thursday, Sport Mediaset reported that Ronaldo had already agreed to a four-year contract and could be presented in Turin as early as Saturday. However, a source close to the Portugal captain told ESPN that things are not progressing nearly as quickly as that.
The source said Juventus have made an interesting proposal to Ronaldo's representatives, but that further talks with Madrid are expected before any final decision is made.
Italian outlet Mediaset said Juventus discussed the idea of signing Ronaldo at a meeting earlier in the day between general manager Giuseppe Marotta, club president Andrea Agnelli, sporting director Fabio Paratici and coach Massimiliano Allegri, who had reportedly cut short his holidays to return to Turin to attend.
Marotta and Paratici, it was claimed, were then to take a private jet to the Spanish capital to meet with Madrid chiefs and finalise the transfer at a fee of €100m.
The only comment from either club came from Marotta on Wednesday, when the Juventus official declined to confirm or deny the reports, saying, "I will not speak [about the speculation]" when asked by Sky Sports Italia whether Juventus fans "could dream of Ronaldo."
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According to TV show "El Chiringuito de Jugones," which earlier this week first reported word of a potential deal, Mendes was in Madrid on Wednesday for a meeting with president Florentino Perez and director general Jose Angel Sanchez.
Former Juventus director Luciano Moggi, who earlier this week called the Ronaldo rumours a joke, changed his tune and wrote on Twitter that "Ronaldo has already signed for Juve and undergone medicals in Munich."
"This is my belief after talking with some important people," Moggi clarified on Tele7Gold.
Meanwhile, La Stampa reported that a Turin estate agent had received a call from an English "emissary" acting on behalf of Ronaldo, with an appointment fixed for Friday to view a luxury villa near the city which could potentially be the Madeira-born player's new base if he joins Juventus.
In Spain, Marca's Thursday front page featured Ronaldo with a headline of: "If I'm valued at €100m, then they do not love me" -- a reference to his alleged annoyance that Madrid would accept that for him.
AS were among the outlets to report on Thursday that Ronaldo is happy with Juve's offer of a €30m net annually. Juventus club sponsor Fiat may also step in and agree to pay some of that cost, Mediaset said, as the player acts as a brand ambassador for the Italian car company.
Adding to the clamour, the brother and agent of Gonzalo Higuain said the Juventus forward would welcome a reunion with his former Madrid teammate.
"Gonzalo was at Real with Cristiano for four years, but he's not told him anything yet," Nicolas Higuain told Sky Sport Italia. "It would be fantastic if he were to join Juventus and partner [with] Higuain. They can read each other like a book, and it would be truly a huge signing for Juventus. Everybody wants him. It would be spectacular."
Juventus may need to offload players to pay Ronaldo's transfer fee and wages, but Nicolas Higuain played down talk that his brother could rejoin his former Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri if he takes over at Chelsea.
"Gonzalo considers Sarri to be his sporting father and they have a fantastic relationship," Nicolas Higuain said. "Sarri is not yet the coach of Chelsea, though, and Gonzalo has three years on his contract and is happy at Juve. Furthermore, he gets on well with Allegri. Links to other clubs are purely speculation. We've not spoken to anybody."
Madrid's willingness to let Ronaldo leave could be linked to whether they can do a deal with Paris Saint-Germain for either Neymar or Kylian Mbappe.
Twice in the last week, Madrid have moved to issue official statements denying reports that they were close to signing either PSG player, with radio show "El Transistor" reporting the statements are intended to keep relations positive to ensure a deal can be done later in the summer.
However, Real Madrid have issued no such statement about Ronaldo.
Information from ESPN FC's Italy correspondent Selene Scarsi was used in this report.