Should you choose to watch Real Madrid v Galatasaray tonight, you could be in for a shock as 45,000 Cristiano Ronaldo’s stare back at you from the Santiago Bernabeu stands in a show of support for the Portuguese forward to claim a first Ballon d’Or crown since 2008.
The club have accepted the proposal put forward by two of the largest supporters groups of the La Liga side, and they will hand out the lookalike face masks before the start of the Champions League Group B encounter.
Officials have also sanctioned a 10-metre wide banner that will read "Our unconditional support for ‘Comandante’ Cristiano. For the Ballon d’Or and La Decima", relating to the upcoming world player of the year award in January as well as Real’s constant attempt to land a record tenth European Cup. There will also be a six-metre-high banner draped over one side of the stadium that reads: “We are all Cristiano.”
However, Ronaldo will be unable to look on from the pitch to the show of support, as a thigh injury has ruled him out of the near-redundant match due to Real’s current standing at the top of their group. Mathematically, the Spanish club need a point to ensure their progress, but realistically they are already home and dry as group winners.
They face FC Copenhagen in their final group match in a fortnight, but the only way they could possibly miss out on progression to the last-16 would be for the Danish club to beat Italian champions Juventus tonight and then knock off Real, while Galatasaray would also need to beat both Real tonight and Juventus in two weeks with a rather hefty goal swing in favour of the two clubs.
It’s because of this sense of progression that is likely to be confirmed later tonight that has led the supporters groups to order the masks in from Italy, and they met with club officials on Monday to discuss the best way to distribute all 45,000 of them to the fans in attendance.
Ronaldo’s hopes of claiming a second Ballon d’Or title were given a major boost last week when Fifa reopened the voting after what they said was a low turnout in the voting – they hope that the extra time will see the participation level increase to over 75 per cent.
Having originally seen Lionel Messi installed as the early favourite, his subsequent groin injury plus Ronaldo’s unrivalled goal-scoring record this calendar year has seen him leap ahead of both Messi and Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery in the bookmaker’s pecking order for the award.