Of all of Cristiano Ronaldo’s various behavioral quirks, which have brought us so many laughs over the years, one of the funniest and most puzzling is his curious attachment to being the most expensive player alive. When he first came to Real Madrid, the club paid what was then a world record transfer fee for him; by most all accounts, that record was broken when Gareth Bale joined him in Madrid. The club itself has made a number of attempts to shield Ronaldo’s ego from the facts, though, and even now, after the recent leak of the Bale transfer agreement seemed to have put the issue to rest, Real, through their friends in the media, are still insisting that Ronaldo is the bestest and most expensivest player ever and has no reason to fret.

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If you aren’t familiar with the story, the Football Leaks site—which has somehow acquired a number of transfer agreements and player contracts and leaked them online in an effort to lift the veil on the secretive, often shady soccer market—got its hands on the agreement that sent Bale from Tottenham to Real Madrid. On its face, the contract wasn’t too interesting, as it basically confirmed what was long taken as a given: that the deal in total cost about €100 million (the leaked contract put it at €101 million if the Spanish club chose to pay in installments, which they did), surpassing Ronaldo’s €96 million fee when Real bought him from Manchester United.

The interesting part was the discrepancy between the numbers as laid out in the contract and those Real had publicly disclosed. Since the deal went through, Real have been adamant that Bale actually only cost €91 million, which would have preserved Ronaldo’s status as all-time most expensive transfer.

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Now, you may be thinking, Who cares? What’s 10 or so million Euros one way or another matter when we’re still talking stupefying numbers verging on nine figures? If so, you’re right. It doesn’t make any difference. But it really matters to Ronaldo, as we’ve seen repeatedly.

Recall: Real Madrid once told a journalist not to mention the specifics of Bale’s fee in a feature about Bale, for fear that Ronaldo would hear about it and become upset that the media was spreading the poisonous lie that the Welshman was the more expensive purchase; Bale’s agent admitted in a profile that he likes to dig Ronaldo’s agent about Bale’s superior fee, since he knows it’s an easy way to get under his skin (relatedly, Bale sought to cut ties with the agent after said interview); and now we know Real privately misrepresented Bale’s fee so that their star player could sleep peacefully, knowing that nobody had ever cost as much money as he did. Predictably, this was big news in Spain:

However, the contract has not been the final word on the matter. Today, Spanish sports daily Marca has come to Ronaldo’s rescue, explaining that actually, if you look at the Ronaldo contract the same way the media has looked at the Bale one, Ronaldo’s is still the more expensive.

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The issue, as Marca has (correctly) pointed out, is the difference between the two optional payment plans. Bale’s contract required Real to pay either €87 million in one sum upfront, or they could break it down into scheduled payments over a few years for a total of about €99 million. The €101 million number comes when you factor in various solidarity payments and interest.

Marca—which acquired their information only through the most dogged of reporting, I’m certain—goes on to explain in minute detail the specifics of Ronaldo’s transfer agreement, when, where, and by whom it was signed, and the details of the loan Real took out to finance the deal:

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In June of 2009, Real Madrid and Manchester United formalized the transfer of Cristiano for 80 million pounds, which in exchange amounted to 96.9 million euros (93.9 million, plus three million in a solidarity fee, which may vary). In fact, it included insurance to account for possible fluctuations in the exchange rate of one million euros. It also contained a penalty clause for non-compliance from any party amounting to 30 million euros. That contract, prepared by José Ángel Sánchez, Pedja Mijatovic and Carlos Butzer during Ramon Calderon’s presidency was implemented in the second half of June but was actually written some months earlier, specifically in November 2008, though it was mid December when it was signed and entered into a notary of Madrid.

[...]

To address this single payment of 96.9 million euros, Real Madrid entered into a loan with Banco Santander and later another with Caja totaling 72 million euros to be paid in three installments. That is, the blanco club spent 25 million of its cash and financed 72, that with taxes raised the final figure to 104.7 million euros.

Eureka! See, Ronaldo did still cost more! You can tell that this is the intended sentiment by Marca’s cover today, featuring a grinning Ronaldo, apparently to signify how overjoyed he should be that he’s recaptured his crown—

—and also by their kicker, which gets in a solid burn on Barcelona for the Neymar transfer fiasco:

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So Cristiano remains in the possession of the honorary title of the most expensive signing football history.

Although the transfer of Neymar to Barcelona in 2011, which is at 83.3 million, looks set to beat all records when Justice Department determines the amount of taxes which, between Santos, the player and the Catalan club, they all failed to pay. But that is another story. And another way of doing things.

So again, you might be wondering, So what? It sounds like Marca might be right—though it’s still hard to tell without seeing the specifics of the Ronaldo deal, as they were somehow able to—and at any rate, who really cares? And again, you’d be right. There’s no rational reason why anyone would go through all this work, scrounging up every spare Euro in search of a final tally to determine that, while Gareth Bale cost a whole hell of a lot of money, Cristiano Ronaldo cost a whole hell of a lot, plus one. Real Madrid are so determined to do so anyway, quite obviously only to placate Ronaldo’s ego. It’s pretty damn funny.

Photo via Getty