Florentino Pérez has risked a complete breakdown in relations between his club Real Madrid and Manchester United by promising "to work" at finally delivering Cristiano Ronaldo to the Bernabeu faithful.
Pérez, the capital club's new president, has fanned the flames by vowing to go back over a pre-contract agreement made between Real and Ronaldo last season which could see the 24-year-old world player of the year quit the Premier League title-winners for an estimated £75m.
He said: "It would be very good if great players were at Real Madrid this season. Cristiano would be one of them."
And the question facing Sir Alex Ferguson now is how much more conjecture about his star forward can he possibly take before his patience snaps? The Scot infamously declared he would never sell "that mob" a virus, but, at the risk of upsetting a harmonious dressing-room, the thought of cashing in on his most saleable asset is a carrot even Ferguson may not resist.
Ferguson has never shirked a decision and past favorites such as David Beckham, Roy Keane and Ruud van Nistelrooy all faced the same inevitable end when the notoriously unsympathetic Old Trafford boss thought they had overstayed their welcome.
A public show of dissent when substituted in the Manchester derby and apparent criticism of his manager's tactics in the wake of United's 2-0 Champions League final defeat by Barcelona has led to suggestions that holes are appearing in Ronaldo's relationship with Ferguson.
The Portugal international affectionately refereed to Ferguson as a "second father" when seemingly nailing his flag to the mast recently. He will do well to hold on to that thought if he should decide to end his near six-year association with the club this summer.