In Pictures: Ronaldo puts on show for Real Madrid fans
A showman right from the start Cristiano Ronaldo was greeted by 80,000 Real Madrid fans in the Santiago Bernabeu last night and led them in a chorus of ‘uno dos tres Hala Madrid’.
He has already started filling stadiums and selling shirts now for the real business of winning trophies.
Images of him scoring goal after goal for Manchester United had been shown on a giant screen and each one was cheered by fans who filled the stadium an hour before their idol arrived as if each one had been scored for Real Madrid.
They had camped out as early as nine o’clock in the morning to ensure prime seats, over 100 supporters waited outside the hospital where his lunchtime medical was held and the ground was already as good as full one hour before he took to the specially errected stage at one end of the ground to deafening screams of his name from all four sides of the ground.
He calmly chatted with legends Eusebio and Alfredo Di Stefano and then greeted fans with a “Buenas noches” adding: “I have completed my dream of becoming a Real Madrid player.”
While juggling the ball on the main stage he briefly lost control and when a young boy brought it back to the stage he signed the ball for fan. Less well choreografed was a mini invasión from a small group of fans who had to be rugby tackled to the ground by security as they tried to get a little too close to their hero as he disappeared down the tunnel.
Increased revenue from merchandising, advertising and sponsorship will be expected to pay back the two bank loans that secured his services and the early signs are that Real president Florentino Perez’ assertion that he will pay for himself will be born out.
As he was walking out on to the pitch last night Real Madrid’s shop was finally putting his number 9 shirt up for sale for the first time and thousands were bought by fans leaving the ground.
Ronaldo will need to work off the pitch as well as on it to have the kind of comercial impact that David Beckham enjoyed before him and there were early signs of that as he was directed who to meet and greet.
Madrid had been determined to out-do the previous record for a player presentation set by Napoli in 1984. Almost to the July day 25 years ago Diego Maradona was welcomed by 80,000 fans after his move from Barcelona — that despite the fact that Napoli president Corrado Ferlaino had charged people to get into the ground.
Before this summer Real’s previous record had stood at the 8,000 fans who filled the club’s Raimundo Saporta Pavilion Basketball arena for Beckham’s switch to Spain but the so-called Latin Becks easily out-done the last poster boy footballer to leave Manchester United for Real Madrid.
Twenty-two radio stations and 15 TV channels were part of a press corps of over 500 for an event timed perfectly to be shown live on all mainstream Spanish TV channels. Even prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was asked about Madrid’s biggest signing last week — the Barcelona supporting president has stated his preference for Kaka.
The player had arrived in a private jet at Torrejón de Ardoz airport at wearing a T-shirt with the name of his current sportswear sponsor Nike emblazoned across the front. Madrid have made much of the fact that he will now be wearing the shirt of their biggest rival Adidas every week something for which they have been rumoured to double their £6million a year financial commitment to the club.
The next he wears that shirt could be in Dublin where Real are set to take on Michael O’Neill’s Shamrock Rovers on July 20.