Cristiano Ronaldo arrives at Juventus: How did the Ballon d'Or winner fare?
TURIN, Italy -- Cristiano Ronaldo made a spectacular entrance as a Juventus player on Monday with the Serie A champions giving thought to everything -- apparently also including the weather. At the end of a day in which thousands of fans were given a glimpse of their new idol, Ronaldo's arrival at the Allianz Stadium for his official presentation to the media was met with a resonant clap of thunder.
It was apt, considering how Juve's players are welcomed onto the field for their games to the sounds of AC/DC's "Thunderstruck," and it showed, albeit admittedly unintentionally, the level of preparation that had gone into a transfer which could well go down in history as the biggest the Bianconeri may ever make.
Here is how #CR7DAY unfolded.
After Ronaldo's family and friends had filed into the front row of the Gianni and Umberto Agnelli suite inside the Allianz Stadium -- a venue chosen to satisfy the overwhelming media requests that would have seen the Italian club fill the stadium's news conference room three-fold -- Ronaldo strode in just two minutes later than the scheduled start time of 6:30 p.m. local time. He followed behind Juve's sporting director Fabio Paratici, who had been carefully chosen to represent the club as the architect of this transfer coup.
CR7 is no stranger to such crowds, however, and he looked as relaxed as ever as he took his central pew right in the middle, under the spotlight of the world's media. The floor was passed to the assembled media, and hands were raised with the enthusiasm of school kids who knew the answer to a question that had yet to be asked.
As it happened, Ronaldo's first interrogation was "not very difficult" by his own admission: why he had decided to join Juve. "They are one of the best clubs in the world," he replied, satisfying everybody in the room.
Ronaldo showed no sign of tiredness after an intense day in which he had signed autographs, posed for pictures, undergone a medical and, in perhaps the most testing moment, received a bear hug from teammate and captain Giorgio Chiellini. He will certainly be grateful of such a warm embrace from the Italian defender who has given him such a hard time down the years in opposition, but as is always the case, not a single hair was out of place as Ronaldo took his place in front of the cameras.
What he said
Ronaldo was keen to stress that moving to Juve is not a step back in his career, while he could not help but take a swipe at his contemporaries by emphasising how, even at the age of 33, he can still boast such appeal.
"Physically and emotionally, I'm in good shape," he said. "It's a great motivation to come here. I'm delighted to be a player who is 33 and to come here and prove I am really different to others. There are a lot of emotions for me at the moment, to be here when I am 23 -- or rather 33!"
The slip of the tongue was hardly casual. "I came here because this is a huge challenge for my career -- players of my age generally go to other countries, with all respect to Qatar and China, so to join a club like this makes me happy, so I'd like to thank Juventus for the opportunity they've given me."
Just to hammer home how Ronaldo does not intend to ease into retirement over the four years that will take him up to 37, he outlined his ambitions.
"I'll be looking to show Italian football fans that I am still at the top," he said. "I'll work and train hard, but I don't have anything to prove; my statistics already say everything. I'm ambitious and I like challenges, and I don't like to be in my comfort zone. I hope to go down in history for Juventus as I did for Manchester and Real.
"I did think of winning one Ballon d'Or, but I never thought I'd win two or three, nevermind five. Obviously, I always want to win, and, who knows, maybe I'll have a chance to win it here at Juventus -- why not? But I don't lose sleep about it. Things happen because they are meant to happen. I did it at Manchester and Madrid, so why not here? We'll see."
How he handled the media
At the head of a room full of what could be mistaken for being potential Air Force cadets, all donning headphones, Ronaldo sat patiently and listened to questions in Portuguese, Spanish and Italian without a simultaneous translation in his ear. (And consequently, no risk of damage to his earrings.) Only once did he request an additional translation of a question he was not sure he had understood correctly, in Italian, as he replied with a smile and without hesitation to all the questions.
Even when he may have been made to feel uneasy by one question asking whether Juventus were the only club who had tried to sign him this summer, he dribbled his way round the journalist's attempt to lure out some transfer gossip with similar aplomb that full-backs have feared for years. "Si, l'unica," he said with a smile. Yes, the only one.
"I know it's going to be hard, but I've never had anything easy in my career ... otherwise I could just sit in my armchair at home. I'm confident about my football and my teammates, and I'm sure everything will go well. I thank all the fans who have been here -- grazie mille!"
What he brings to Juventus
"It will be a beautiful time of my life; I've signed for four years, and I hope to give a lot to the team," Ronaldo said. It is going to be a beautiful time for the club's fans, too, and this makes Juve's €112 million record transfer anything but a gamble. Indeed, Ronaldo shirts have been flying off the shelves at the rate of one every minute since his arrival was announced last week.
At this rate, the Bianconeri will pay off his entire wages purely in merchandising, not to mention a significant increase on the price of season tickets for next season that, up to a week ago, had been the source of substantial discontent but now appears to have been widely accepted by the Turin club's fans.
CR7 is not just a marketing magnet, however. The main reason Juve have signed him is as the missing piece in the puzzle they hope to complete in Madrid next June -- by lifting their first UEFA Champions League trophy since 1996. Ronaldo has won five of them, and Juve will be hoping he can extend that personal record in the four years he will spend in the city, and just maybe give them the additional prestige of having their first Ballon d'Or winner since current vice president Pavel Nedved, in 2003.
Verdict out of 10
8/10 -- Ronaldo was as genuine as he was convincing. He repeatedly thanked Juventus for giving him the opportunity to continue winning trophies away from Madrid while emphasising how much he relishes a challenge. Both club and player appear set to benefit from this summer's most talked-about transfer, and Italian football is undoubtedly also set to gain. It is no coincidence, perhaps, that Serie A finally has four UEFA Champions League group stage clubs next season, as Calcio is coming back into fashion -- thanks to CR7.
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.