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Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson watched his former star Cristiano Ronaldo destroy Barcelona in the Nou Camp on Tuesday night with a mixture of admiration and trepidation.

And Ferguson knows that he must find a way to stop the Real Madrid forward at Old Trafford next week if his team are to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

However, as United prepare for Ronaldo's first return since his £80million move to Madrid almost four years ago, the intriguing prospect of a more permanent Old Trafford return for the Portugal forward is on the agenda.

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Rocks Off Toys - bad boy or rock chick

There have been conflicting reports about the possibility of this mind-boggling move since November and the deal looked on around Christmas time when Ronaldo was reported as having said he would not sign a new deal at The Bernabeu and would let his existing contract run down.

Ronaldo has given an interview since then that goes some way to contradicting this but the story refuses to go away. Now, Sportsmail are reporting that there is growing belief around the club that a deal for Ronaldo is not as fanciful as it sounds and, remarkably, that United have already launched what amounts to a feasibility study to see if they could finance the biggest player purchase in their history — one Ferguson estimates would run into "hundreds of millions".

If — and it remains a significant if — Ronaldo leaves the Bernabeu before his contract runs out in 2015, United believe it would come down to a straight choice between them and Paris Saint-Germain and he would pick Old Trafford.

Manchester City cannot be discounted but United have first option to buy under the terms of his transfer to Madrid in 2009 and most of that world record fee remains unspent. They could expect to pay around £60m to buy Ronaldo back because, although he has taken his game to new heights in Spain, he is now 28 and has just over two years left on his contract in Madrid.

His wages would take that well beyond the £100m mark but United are fully aware of the commercial value of a player who was transformed from a raw teenage talent into World Player of the Year during his six years in Manchester.

The deal that Manchester United are reportedly working on had a major stumbling block, namely whether the Premier League leaders could offer a salary to rival the player's current £220,000-a-week deal and stay within the new UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations, which come into force next season.

But there is a way round those rules which would see a player agree a salary with a side and then sign a separate endorsement package with the club's sponsors and it is exactly that model which is being considered at Old Trafford, with new club sponsors Chevrolet ready to make Ronaldo their global ambassador to help bring him back to Manchester.

It is unlikely that Madrid president Florentino Perez will allow Ronaldo to see out his current deal and then leave for nothing. Talks are expected at the end of the season, with Perez under pressure because of the presidential elections in June.

However, with no stand-out candidate opposing him, he has more room for manoeuvre than previously.

Madrid yesterday opened talks with Napoli over Edinson Cavani and, if Perez sanctions a raid for Tottenham's Gareth Bale, even Ronaldo could be dispensable.

Ferguson has said: "I think Madrid are trying hard to get him to sign a new contract and I think that's happening."

Alex Ferguson was quoted in Sportsmail.

Ronaldo Back To Manchester United Deal Not So Complex After All
Manchester United Working On Landmark Deal To Bring Back Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo: Move To Manchester City Is Not Impossible
No Ronaldo Manchester United Return Until 2015
Ferguson Gives Broadest Hint Yet That Ronaldo Could Make United Return
Ronaldo Confirms He Wants Manchester United Return

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