Alright, so $217 000 a week certainly helped, but spend 24 hours in Madrid, and it's not terribly hard to see why Cristiano Ronaldo wanted to swap the grey drizzle of Manchester for Spain's capital.
Blue skies, warm sunshine, smiling locals and some of the best food on the planet: as cities go, Madrid has every right to stake a claim as one of the world's finest. And not just because Portuguese football gods now call the place home.
I've been to Madrid on three separate occasions now, and on three occasions it hasn't just not disappointed; it's welcomed me with an unaffected style that has me leaving with great reluctance, determined to return. And the reason isn't a particular restaurant, or club, or dark haired Hispanic beauty (of which the city is obscenely stocked). Instead, it's the simple charm of a continental metropolis that's still happily convinced that it's no more than a large, laidback village.
Arrive in Spain's capital, and your first challenge - if you're making the sensible decision to take public transport - is the metro, one of Europe's simplest and most efficient. Three different lines and the grand sum of €2 later, and you'll find yourself a five minute stroll from my hotel of choice in Madrid: the AC Recoletas. Four-star elegance and convenience that recognises the need for comfort and a certain degree of luxury, but also knows that you're not in the city to stay in your room.
Centrally located in shopping central (Tommy Hilfiger, Prada and Louis Vuitton headline an array of stores in credit card distance from the hotel's front door), it's also just minutes from the Prado, a museum that might not have the global street cred of the Louvre, but consistently offers one of Europe's most uplifting cultural experiences with the rotating exhibitions complementing the Prado's own collection to present a mecca for anyone faintly interested in the arts.
'The Spanish take their eating seriously'
But the hotel also serves as an ideal point of departure for what I consider to be Madrid's central attraction: the tapas tour. The Spanish take their eating almost as seriously as they take their football (fit in a tour of Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu Stadium if you have the chance, one of world sport's defining theatres), and much like Paris, Sydney, San Francisco and Barcelona, the other great gastronomic cities I've visited, every second store appears to be selling food of one sort or another.
There are myriad restaurants to drop in on, with traditional Spanish and carnivorous Argentinean options everywhere in a city that's also dotted with the ubiquitous Italian, Chinese and sushi outlets that have shaped so much of the global palate. But it's the tapas bars that are Madrid's culinary heartbeat, and that offer a rough structure to a most joyful experience: meandering through the streets of Spain's capital, soaking in sunshine and history in equal measure as you wander from plaza to plaza through streets lined with historic architecture. Days don't get much better than this.
And while locals have their established favourites, and tourists will recall particular establishments with fond nostalgia, I've been enough times now to know that part of the joy is in discovering new gems on each trip, secure in the knowledge that you're most unlikely to find something you don't like - and if by chance you do, you simply turn around, walk out, and try out the place next door.
The Plaza del Sol (easy to find on the metro) is a good place to start, and represents the very centre of the city (look out for the 'kilometre zero' marker for a tourist photo), as is the Plaza Mayor, but so much of the city offers a similarly inviting point of departure for a lazy day out.
On this particular occasion, we opted for La Latina neighbourhood, with Cava Calle Baja the street central to our explorations, and a smiling South African named Ferdi playing tour guide (there are a surprising number of South Africans resident in Madrid).
Spain's answer to biltong
At the heart of the Spanish diet is jamon serrano, cured Spanish ham that's carved in thin slices off the large, alluring legs that hang from delis and butcheries across the country. Salty, yet not nearly as dry as you'd expect, it's Spain's answer to biltong, and forms an ideal partner to the glasses of Spanish beer you'll have poured for you.
Be warned, though: Spanish custom is to serve small tumblers of cerveza, rather than the huge steins the Germans dish out, which is no bad thing if you're spending an entire day peppering your stroll through Madrid with visits to bars. Quick language tip if you are thirsty: grande cerveza will get you a large beer, while vino tinto will suffice if you're after a red wine alternative, usually in the form of Spain's very drinkable rioja.
The tapas in some bars are served as free accompaniments to the drinks, marinated chickpeas and bowls of olives regular features of what's on offer; more substantial dishes need to be paid for, but the price is minimal, particularly when shared.
Chorizo, the rich Spanish sausage poorly imitated in other corners of the world, is addictive, and I tend to come home with a couple in my luggage when I return. We also got through, in no particular order, pan con tomate, a simple peasant style toasted bread with tomato; chistorra, a Basque-style chorizo that's particularly good, morcillas, or blood sausage, which won't be to everyone's taste; and brocheta de salmon, a piscine treat to offset the red meat theme that dominated our tapas tour.
Should you wish to follow our particular route, then El Schotis Restaurante, Restaurante Txakoli and Taberna de Zapatero were the pick of the destinations; the food is outstanding, and in itself is reason enough to head to Madrid (along with a little beer or rioja).
But when experienced in tandem with an old European city, a majestic old metropolis that offers open squares and tree-lined avenues in abundance, you have a most memorable day out.
Barcelona tends to get much of the press, and it's certainly a beautiful city, but Madrid is an underrated rival for the Catalan city's attractions; as a precociously talented Portuguese footballer will no doubt attest, it's a wonderful place to call home. Especially if you're escaping the rain of Manchester.
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