Manchester United maintain that Cristiano Ronaldo is not for sale amid growing uncertainty over his future at Old Trafford.
There was speculation on Thursday that United will listen to offers close to the £13million they paid to re-sign Ronaldo from Juventus last summer.
Chelsea owner Todd Boehly is thought to be considering a bid following talks with the players’ agent Jorge Mendes, and there is also interest from Napoli.
However, United are sticking to the club’s official line that the 37-year-old is not for sale and remains under contract at Old Trafford for another year.
Speculation over Ronaldo’s future has been fuelled by his absence from pre-season training after informing the club that he wants to leave. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner was missing for a fourth day on Thursday after being given time off for ‘family reasons’.
United still don’t know if Ronaldo will fly with the rest of the squad on Friday for a tour of Thailand and Australia, although it looks increasingly unlikely. The trip starts with a friendly against Liverpool at the Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok on Tuesday and also includes games against Melbourne, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa in Australia.
Sources say that Ronaldo will feature in Friday’s kit launch, with images of the Portugal superstar set to be used despite him wanting to leave.
However, the saga is in danger of overshadowing Erik ten Hag’s start as United manager as the Dutchman prepares to face questions over Ronaldo’s situation if it is not resolved.
When United last toured three years ago – also to Australia – manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was dogged by questions over unsettled striker Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian didn’t play a single game and left for Inter Milan shortly afterwards.
It remains to be seen if the issue surrounding Ronaldo – who has a considerably higher profile than Lukaku and has been used as a poster boy for this tour – plays out the same way.
Sir Alex Ferguson kept Ronaldo for another season before selling the player to Real Madrid in 2009, and United seem equally determined to stand their ground now. It would be a surprise if their resolve isn’t severely tested, however.