Manchester United has gone from seventh place disarray to a club that could lure Sergio Ramos

It’s war at Real Madrid. But when is it not? Madrid, after all, is the club that makes the Middle East look like a model of tranquility and harmony. You could send a dozen Nobel Peace Prize winners into the Bernabéu on a humanitarian mission and within minutes they’d be slamming the management and demanding more respect and higher wages.

But Sergio Ramos? He’s one of the goalscoring heroes of the 2014 Champions League final. He’s one of the most influential players at the club, perhaps the most important personality after captain Iker Casillas. He’s been with El Real for a decade. Is he really so disillusioned that he’s about to leave for Manchester United, as reports claim?

Of course, Ramos could be using the rumor as a tactic to drive up his salary. And United have something that El Real wants: Spanish international goalkeeper David de Gea. So there’s a certain logic to the stories.

It would be a dramatic exit, but hardly unprecedented in scale from the club that let one of its all-time greats, Raúl, leave for Schalke in 2010 when he had seemed sure to end his career at the only club he’d ever known. (And now he’s playing for the New York Cosmos on a university’s turf field on Long Island. See what you did, Madrid?)

More than Real’s disfunction, the most interesting aspect of this tale is that United appear to have a genuine chance of signing one of Europe’s best defenders, and that the Glazer family are still willing to spend big even after last season’s out-of-character transfer splurge. The club could lay out $50 million on the 29-year-old and that would take United’s outlay in transfer fees alone to about $330 million since the start of last summer. This from a team that in the second half of 2013 was struggling to buy anyone better than Marouane Fellaini.

United is only one year removed from a seventh-place finish that saw them miss out on the Champions League. It just finished 2014-15 in fourth, 17 points adrift of champions Chelsea. But its reputation and resources hardly suffered from its rapid decline under David Moyes’ management, and now the team is back in UEFA’s top tournament.

As much as it would be eyebrow-elevating to see Ramos leave Madrid, if he arrives at Old Trafford, it’d be a move that would have seemed highly improbable a year ago, when United seemed at risk of an extended spell in the doldrums.