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Ronaldo to Barca! Vinicius for Ballon d’Or! Spain’s prank stories on ‘Dia de los Inocentes’

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The Christmas festivities may be over and done with for another year but Spanish football fans were treated to one last sensational seasonal gift on Tuesday as they scanned the morning headlines. Catalonia-based sports daily Mundo Deportivo brought news of a potentially seismic transfer amid speculation that Manchester United forward and former Real Madrid icon Cristiano Ronaldo is so desperate to return to LaLiga that he has secretly offered his services to Barcelona.

It’s a story of such earth-shattering magnitude that anyone reading it would have a hard time believing it was possible — and they’d be right to.

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According to the report, Ronaldo made contact with Barca head coach Xavi a few days ago after reaching him through mutual friend Gerard Pique, and is now finalising the deal with his agent Jorge Mendes in time for the January transfer window to open. Barca president Joan Laporta is equally eager to rekindle his long-held ambition of signing Ronaldo, having first attempted to lure the Portuguese forward to Camp Nou in 2003 during his first stint in power.

It’s claimed Xavi asked Pique if Ronaldo understands the kind of complex positional play he is trying to instil at Barca. Pique has confirmed that his former United teammate is already studying the writings of Laureano Ruiz, the former Barca coach who wrote the book “The authentic Barca method,” and he is willing to adapt his style of play to suit.

What’s more, in his role as middle-man, Pique has also reportedly promised to find Ronaldo a suitable house in the local area and has even asked former teammate Lionel Messi if he would consider renting his vacant house in the plush suburb of Castelldefels. Ronaldo is excited to stay in Messi’s mansion alongside the Paris Saint-Germain forward’s seven Ballon d’Ors (having only won five himself). “If he takes care of them and doesn’t take any of them, there’s no problem letting him rent the house,” Messi is said to have told Pique.

The player is keen to give up Champions League football to play in the knockout phase of the Europa League with Barca this season, if only because it means he’ll have the chance to lift a trophy that his long-time rival Messi has never won before. Mundo Deportivo adds that, should Ronaldo’s shock transfer to Barca go through, he would take the squad number currently held by Luuk de Jong and become “CR17.”

And so, with the wheels in motion, we look forward to the truly astonishing sight of Cristiano Ronaldo being unveiled at Camp Nou mere days from now, holding his new Blaugrana shirt aloft for the world to see. Or at least we would if we weren’t quite so well acquainted with the Spanish festive calendar and the need to treat almost every news story printed in the national press on Dec. 28 with the utmost scepticism.

That’s because Dec. 28 is “El Dia de Los Inocentes” (The Day of the Holy Innocents) which is essentially the Spanish equivalent of April Fool’s Day — a day to revel in the simple joy of pranks, jokes and japes. Alas, Ronaldo’s stunning transfer to Barca was just a humorous ruse dreamt up by the Mundo Deportivo sports desk to momentarily hoodwink any unsuspecting and/or naive readers.

As if the very idea that Real Madrid’s all-time top goal scorer would be willing to join his former club’s arch-rivals, who are €1.4 billion in debt, just a few months after returning the Manchester United wasn’t unbelievable enough on its own, there were several clues in the story itself. The byline, for one thing, attributes the “exclusive” story to a Portugal-based writer named “Inocencio dos Santos,” while the text describes as “a signing that more than one at the club thought was a joke.”


Mundo Deportivo was not the only place where pranks could be found on Tuesday. Barcelona-based Jota Jordi, a contributor to Spanish TV show “El Chiringuito,” tweeted to wish all of his followers a happy “Dia de Los Inocentes with a Photoshopped image of Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior winning the Ballon d’Or.

Elsewhere, Spanish handball team Ciudad de Logrono announced that, due to unexpected “maintenance works” at their home arena, they would be temporarily sharing the stadium used by the local football team, third-tier UD Logrones.

Last year fans of Leganes, a club in Spain‘s second division, woke up to the news that the club’s giant cucumber-shaped mascot Super Pepino would would be leaving after having their “release clause” triggered by an unnamed LaLiga club.

The hoax was a not-so-subtle nod to the controversial departure of Martin Braithwaite, who was allowed to join Barcelona in an emergency move back in February of 2020, leaving Leganes unable to sign a replacement as they headed for relegation.

While in 2019, the most notable inocentada led Manchester City fans to read the shock announcement in an official statement from Real Sociedad that their club had signed Martin Odegaard on loan, even though the Norway midfielder was actually already at La Real on loan from Real Madrid at the time.

It’s all great festive fun. Just remember to set a reminder for Dec. 28 next year, and take any incredible football news you read emanating from Spain on that day with a hefty pinch of salt.

Wait, what’s today’s big breaking news involving a Spanish club? Debt-ridden Barcelona have completed the signing of Ferran Torres from Manchester City, for a transfer fee of €55 million? Yeah, sure guys. Nice try. Pull the other one.

ESPN’s Sam Marsden contributed to this report





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