A showman right from the start, Cristiano Ronaldo was greeted by 80,000 Real Madrid fans at the 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.
Ronaldo also demonstrated his pace escaping a mini-pitch invasion as some fans had to be tackled to the ground as they tried to get a little too close to him.
Asked what he felt about Manchester United, he said: "People knew this was my dream but I will miss many things about Manchester. Now I am going to give 100 per cent for this club. I never expected the welcome I received. To enter the stadium and see it full was incredible and to pull on the shirt for the first time was also very special."
He suggested that he had left Sir Alex Ferguson on excellent terms. "It was a good goodbye with him," he said. "He is always going to be an important person in my career. It would be fantastic to play the European Cup against him next May. He actually joked with me that it would be great to play against me in the final. And he told me he would put Patrice Evra on me to kick me. I said 'Hey boss, respect me'."
Asked how he would try to avoid the on-the-pitch failure and the off-the-pitch controversy that the former United midfielder David Beckham suffered in his first three seasons with Real, he said: "I won't have those problems. I am not married and I have good people around me. There will be no problem. I am ready for my challenge. I look after myself and I hope to give defenders a lot of problems."
Supporters had started queueing a full 12 hours before Ronaldo was due to appear at the stadium last night to make sure of getting the best view of their new hero. Around a hundred even gathered at La Moraleja hospital where he had his medical before signing for Real.
Images of him scoring goal after goal for United had been shown on a giant screen at the Bernabeu and each one was cheered by fans as if they had been scored for Real. He calmly chatted with the Portuguese legend Eusebio and the Real favourite Alfredo di Stefano and then greeted fans with a "Buenas noches" before he added: "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 he signed the ball for him. One intruder on the pitch wanted a cast on his arm signed and the still-smiling Ronaldo obliged, but when the mini-invasion came just as the winger had completed a lap of honour he showed a clean pair of heels in disappearing down the tunnel.
Ronaldo will need to work off the pitch as well as on it to have the kind of commercial impact that Beckham enjoyed and he got an early taste of that as he was directed all over the stadium to meet, greet and smile for his new supporters.
Before this summer Real's previous record for a player-presentation had been the 8,000 fans who filled the club's Raimundo Saporta Pavilion basketball arena for Beckham's arrival in 2003 but Ronaldo easily out-did the last poster boy player to leave United for Real.
Now he has to better him on the pitch, starting on 26 July when he will be back at the Bernabeu for his debut in the Peace Cup against Al-Ittihad.Reuse content