The world's most expensive footballer Cristiano Ronaldo touched down in Dublin last night with his Real Madrid team mates for a nine day training camp.
The 24-year-old, who transferred from Manchester United in a record-breaking £80m (93 million euro) summer signing, was part of a 65 strong group who flew in from Madrid shortly after 7pm.
Karim Benzema, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Gabriel Heinze, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben were also among the entourage who were whisked away to the luxurious Carton House hotel in Co Kildare after boarding a bus on the runway of Dublin Airport. There was no sign of the other expensive signing, Brazilian superstar Kaka.
Just a handful of disappointed fans waited for a glimpse of the team in the arrivals hall, but they were overshadowed by a large group of supporters who cheered Irish teenagers returning from World Youth Championships.
Lifelong fan Jarek Cienkusz, from Lublin in Poland, said he was surprised when nobody was at the airport.
“Now I realise it's because they are not coming through,” said the 29-year-old who lives in Dublin.
“I'm disappointed I'm not going to get to see them, but I got tickets on ebay for the match. I paid 250 euro for two tickets.”
The Portuguese footballer is expected to make his debut for the club in a sell-out friendly game against Dublin's Shamrock Rovers next Monday.
And the climate will be anything but Madrid-like as the world's most pampered football stars are likely to face rain, rain and more rain.
Staff at Carton House are said to be “very excited” at the prospect of seeing some of the biggest names on the planet.
Madrid have reserved 60 rooms for their entourage of players, coaches and staff.
Top chef Cathal Kavanagh will be responsible for feeding the squad a diet of healthy food.
He said the players are looking for “low-fat, high-energy foods”.
They will sit down to eat five times a day. There will be lots of pasta, fish, vegetables and fruit.
Real will play Shamrock Rovers at their Tallaght stadium in a week's time in a sell-out game in which Ronaldo is expected to make his debut for the club.
The team will train on two different pitches at Carton House and staff have been given instructions on what time these should be watered every day.
The trip will be used as a way for Madrid's new superstars to bond with each other and with longer serving players.
Also, it will give new coach Manuel Pellegrini a chance to get to know his players away from the pressurised environment in the Spanish capital.
The visit followed Real's appointment of Irish sports management company Platinum One as its official pre-season partner for its 2009/2010 pre-season training program- me.
Ronaldo signed for Madrid earlier this month, having spent the previous five years at Manchester United.
Reports last night stated he will be guarded by three minders during his stay in Ireland.
Real Madrid hired security for their highest profile star for the first time in club history, according to the reports.
Carton House hotel manager David Webster said: “This is probably our first year as a training facility and we have the biggest football club in the world. It's a fantastic achievement for us to get them here. We're all very excited.”
A Shamrock Rovers spokesman said while they were excited about Ronaldo's arrival, players were more concerned about the League of Ireland.
“We always believed Ronaldo was going to come, now it's a question of whether the coach plays him next Monday night,” said John Byrne.
“We all feel very excited that one of the world's greatest players is coming here, but we also have some important league games.”
“At the end of the day this is a friendly against Real Madrid.
“It's very much the circus is coming to town. The league is still a priority for us.”
But thousands of fans hope star attraction Ronaldo will be in the starting line up against the south Dublin team at Tallaght Stadium.
Temporary seating was installed at the venue to increase capacity from a usual 3,000 to 10,200. The sell-out fixture will also be a massive boost to the club's coffers, which has been hit by financial problems in recent years.
This article originally appeared in the Belfast Telegraph.Reuse content