x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Ronaldo unveiled in glitzy affair

80,000 Real Madrid fans turn out to welcome the world's most expensive player at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo is happy to be the most expensive player in the world.
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo is happy to be the most expensive player in the world.

It was grandiose and it was surreal. A rock concert setting to unveil the world's most expensive player and the new symbol of recently re-elected club president Florentine Perez's 'Galacticos' resurrection. After claiming this week that Real Madrid's £80 million (Dh477m) cheque to Manchester United represented a "fair price" for his services, Fifa World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo was finally presented to 80,000 Los Blancos fans yesterday evening.

Real and Perez were determined to show off their new man. They have to. The Ronaldo publicity machine has a huge role to play in raising the funds needed to repay the club's astronomical bank loans which have financed its unbelievable spending spree. The Bernabeu pitch was transformed into a catwalk as the club's new No 9 lapped up the rapturous adulation. "I am very happy to be here," he confessed.

"A childhood dream has come true for me, to come to Real Madrid. It's incredible that the stadium is full just for me." Watched by the legendary Alfredo di Stefano, Ronaldo kissed the badge on his shirt as a selection of his goals were screened on a giant screen in the centre of the field. After 50,000 turned out to welcome Brazilian playmaker Kaka last week, the huge throng of Ronaldo fans even surpassed the 70,000 who watched Diego Maradona's arrival at Napoli in 1984. They converged to witness the second phase of Perez's "spectacular sporting project". It's a plan with a single objective: to reclaim domestic and European bragging rights from archrivals Barcelona.

Indeed, nobody argued as Ronaldo cowed: "It's going to be a magnificent competition in Spain this year." Meanwhile, AC Milan - besieged by 300 fans protesting their summer transfer market inactivity yesterday - have completed the signing of the United States defender Oguchi Onyewu from Standard Liege. The Belgian passport holder, who excelled at the recent Confederations Cup, moves to the San Siro on a free transfer.

Manchester United and Barcelona goalkeepers Ben Foster and Victor Valdes have both signed extensions to their existing deals at Old Trafford and the Nou Camp. Foster, 26, has signed until 2013 and is expected to compete with Edwin Van der Sar next season in what is likely to be the Dutchman's last before retirement. Valdes is now contracted to the reigning Primera Liga and European champions until 2014.

@Email:emegson@thenational.ae