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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 15 October 2018

Juventus prove their pulling power and offer Ronaldo a new platform to chase more titles

Serie A champions look to the Portuguese forward to take them to the next level

Cristiano Ronaldo scored one of the best of his 451 Real Madrid goals against his new club. Alberto Pizzoli / AFP
Cristiano Ronaldo scored one of the best of his 451 Real Madrid goals against his new club. Alberto Pizzoli / AFP

Never underestimate the power of an ovation. The Juventus supporters who stood to applaud a victorious opponent during the first leg of the Uefa Champions League quarter-final in March knew they were doing something rare.

They could scarcely have imagined they would so promptly be counting their nemesis from that night as one of their own a matter of weeks down the line. But here it is: Ronaldo of Juve, CR7 of Serie A. The Portuguese is the new Pied Piper of Piedmont.

That evening, the last time he was in Turin, Ronaldo was genuinely moved by the tributes paid by the juventini. He had scored a breathtaking goal with an overhead kick, scored another goal as well and set up yet another in a 3-0 away win against the champions of Italy for Real Madrid. The airborne volley will probably make the top 10 of his best goals for Madrid, which, given there have 450 of them, is quite a claim.

The fact that there will no more Ronaldo goals in all-white will take some time to sink in for madridistas. Ronaldo has had an astonishing nine years in the Spanish capital. No single player has shaped Madrid more since Alfredo Di Stefano in the 1950s and 60s.

On which point of comparison, it is worth pointing out that Di Stefano was a Juventus target, too, way back in the mid-1950s, while Madrid and Barcelona were wrestling over a maverick Argentine whom they suspected could dominate European club football and show himself to be the best footballer in the world.

That history is a reminder that Juve have for more than century considered themselves equal in status to the giant clubs of the Spanish league, and part of the same marketplace as the very biggest spenders.

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In recent years it has been possible to forget that, or to believe that Italy’s Serie A, with its damaging corruption scandals and difficulties with debt, had fallen behind the elite and especially the financially muscular intruders into the top-tier of European club game, like Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City.

Now Juventus have joined the ranks of those who can splash out nine-figure transfer-fees, having agreed to pay Madrid €100 million (Dh431m) for the 33-year-old Ronaldo. Their economic commitment represents far more than that, given that Ronaldo will draw a salary of some €30m a year in Turin.

Is it a risk? There must be an element of that given Ronaldo’s age, not so much because of his physical condition, which is superb, but because he has his tried-and-tested methods, and over nine years his Madrid colleagues came to know them intimately.

He is now subject to a process of adaptation. And the Italian top-flight offers fewer opportunities, perhaps, for the kinds of high-scoreline batterings that have helped Ronaldo compile his monumental statistics as a marksman in the Primera Liga.

The likes of Getafe, against whom Ronaldo loved to score hat-tricks, and Celta Vigo - Ronaldo registered 20 goals, and three assists in 13 matches against the Galicians - will certainly be happy to wave adios to him.

Opposition managers across Serie A, meanwhile, will be determined that Ronaldo’s arrival can confirm that Italian defending remains an art they excel in, as weekend after weekend, they strive to limit his effectiveness.

But most in Serie A will also regard his coming there as an endorsement of the prestige of Italian football. “This club, in signing Ronaldo, have done something extraordinary for Juventus and above all for football in Italy,” said Massimiliano Allegri, the Juventus manager.

Allegri hardly paused on hearing it confirmed that Ronaldo would be his club’s new figurehead, in the summer that veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon departed for PSG before explicitly identifying the new recruit as the key piece of a jigsaw.

“It has always been our target to win a Champions League,” said Allegri, who has taken Juve to two losing European Cup finals in the last four years, “and Cristiano certainly puts us in a position to get even closer to that.”

Pressure? No more than Ronaldo puts on himself. He will be driven to show Madrid they appreciated him less than he felt they should, and to make Juventus, seven-time Serie A champions in the last seven years, go higher.

He also wants to complete a remarkable personal record: He has been a European champion six times as senior footballer, with Portugal in 2016; with Manchester United in 2008; with Madrid four times.

Juve have now offered CR7 the challenge of making it seven, and, for collecting those titles across so many different countries, a very special seven indeed.