How I got within sniffing distance of £80m Ronaldo

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The Independent Online

Ever wondered what £80m smells like?

If, like me, you've been lucky enough to get within sniffing distance of the world's most expensive player, you'll know Cristiano Ronaldo is fond of his cologne and hair gel.



Even as he trudged to the showers after a training session in muggy, damp Ireland, the Real Madrid star was still smelling rather... erm... fragrant. Is the 24-year-old wonder kid too good to work up a sweat?



Or is it just that all those rumours about his love of grooming were all true?



Unfortunately, the language barrier prevented me from getting the low-down on the highest-paid player's beauty routine.



Yet, having persuaded him to part with his minders long enough to pose for a quick photograph, I'm happy to report that he's definitely easy on the eye, and the nose. The Galacticos who descended on the Carton House estate in Kildare could win prizes for their patience and generosity.



As the squad prepared for its first training session on Irish soil on Tuesday, young fans lined the approach route from the hotel to the soccer pitches.



With several million euro worth of players in their charge, the 50-strong security staff were keeping their charges safely behind barriers and well away from their admirers.



Yet, in a nod to the very people who indirectly pay their wages, Ronaldo and co obliged every waiting fan by posing for photographs and signing autographs.



And it seems football’s most expensive player isn't above the fans, with captain Raul insisting his new team mate “doesn't act like a star”.



Make no mistake, the circus in Carton House revolves primarily around the sensational new signing, but he's not the only player to cause hearts to flutter.



Were we the type to choose favourites, we might suggest that the handsome Dutchman Ruud van Nistelrooy was the pick of the bunch. From early morning, he maintained a beaming smile as he mingled with the masses.



He even spared a few moments to pose beside this weak-kneed reporter, bestowing a winning smile as he said: “Yes, it's great to be here.”



Ruud, darling, the pleasure was all ours.



With three training sessions on the cards on Tuesday, the Real players could have been forgiven for taking a break on the tennis courts, the golf course, or even in the pool room.



Instead, they were shepherded back to their private quarters. And they say professional football is a glamorous life.



A rumour did the rounds that extra security has been focused on the players' bedrooms to prevent the “lifting” and re-sale of towels used by the stars.



But with burly security guards blocking every entrance, such a breach looked disappointingly unlikely.



But I was too busy rubbing shoulders with the club's latest signing Karim Benzema to look for souvenirs.



Just last week, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was still trying to lure the 21-year-old to his club.



In the interests of research, I sauntered up for an audience with the dishy Frenchman. Dare I suggest Benzema certainly won't be lacking in the style stakes, thanks to his trademark shaved head stripes.



And as for Gallic charm? He has oodles of it. At least now I can tell Alex exactly what he's missing out on.

* Source: Evening Herald, Dublin.

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