By ANDY DUNN, 20/06/2009
CRISTIANO RONALDO today confesses he decided to leave Manchester United a YEAR ago.

Ronaldo will become the world's most expensive player when he completes his £80million move to Real Madrid at the end of this month.

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Cristiano Ronaldo - click here for his United career in pictures

And in his first major interview since United agreed to sell him to their Spanish rivals, we asked the Portuguese star: "When did you know you would be going to Real Madrid?"

His reply will astonish United fans: "After we won the European Cup."

United's penalty shoot-out victory over Chelsea in Moscow was on May 21, 2008. Yet on May 24, 2009 - a year later - he insisted: "Manchester United is my home. Even when I say my heart is here people still make things up. But this is where I want to play."

Ronaldo told us: "After we won the European Cup I thought there is no more I can achieve here. And when you have done all you can, you know it is time for a new challenge. I stayed one more season and it was nice to make it three titles in a row but it was my dream to play for Madrid."

And while Ronaldo denied any knowledge of a pact between Real and United, he hardly dampened speculation that the clubs might have settled on a deal before last season began. When asked if the move had been agreed a year ago, he replied: "No, not that I know of. Any agreements that the clubs had were private. I expressed a desire to join Madrid and the two clubs reached an agreement. This transfer is no different from any other."

Former Real president Ramon Calderon claimed he had sealed the deal six months ago despite United boss Sir Alex Ferguson stating he wouldn't "sell that mob a virus".

But Ronaldo himself shoulders total blame for the controversy that surrounded the affair.

He admits: "Anything that has not been right with the move is my fault and nothing to do with Real Madrid or Manchester United. I opened my mouth and that is what caused the problems between the two clubs who both acted in the correct way. Yes, I would have handled things differently and not been so public."


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