Watching every step he takes
HURRIED through the shrieking crowd by two security guards amid rain so fierce it bounced like a football, cameras capturing and flash bulbs illuminating his every step, life for Cristiano Ronaldo has become more chaotic than ever before.
He had earlier scored a goal in his first match since being accused of rape when the above scene played out as he scurried from the Stadio Friuli to the safety of Juventus’s team coach.
Ronaldo is used to the glare. But this felt different. His lips were pursed and his expression pensive. There were no selfies, certainly no interviews and no smiles, either.
It was as if he was holding his breath and, metaphorically at least, that is what he will be doing until there is a resolution to the case which has made headlines around the world in recent days.
For while he was in Udine in body, his mind was perhaps in the US, where Las Vegas police have re-opened an investigation into rape claims brought by teacher Kathryn Mayorga, dating back to 2009 and a penthouse at the Palms Place Hotel. Ronaldo denies the allegations.
For 90 minutes he had relegated those concerns, sweeping home a fine goal and leading Juventus to a 10th straight victory since his move from Real Madrid.
The front page of La Gazzetta Sportiva read: “Nobody stops him. Under accusation but CR7 scores. On the pitch he drags the team.”
A news story detailed the anger of Mayorga’s legal team that tests from nine years ago have been lost. On the next page there was a large advert of Ronaldo modelling underwear. It did not seem appropriate.
Meanwhile, Juventus were described as “awful” by Gary Lineker after they released a statement in support of “great champion” Ronaldo. Sponsors Nike and Electronic Arts distanced themselves from the 33-year-old.
Shares in Juventus have fallen sharply with the stock price down almost 10%. It crashed 18% since the allegations emerged last week.
His former side Manchester United also left themselves open to criticism by using the narrative of Ronaldo’s comeback to Old Trafford to promote ticket sales for their Champions League game against Juventus on October 23.
Lineker slammed Juve after the Serie A holders tweeted: “Ronaldo has shown in recent months his great professionalism… the events allegedly dating back to almost 10 years ago do not change this opinion, which is shared by anyone who has come into contact with this great champion.”
The former England striker posted in reply: “Whatever the legal outcome, this is awful from Juventus.”
Ronaldo’s sponsors Nike and Electronic Arts have expressed serious concern, however, and are keeping a close eye on the Las Vegas police investigation.
“We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations and will continue to closely monitor the situation,” said Nike, who have worked with Ronaldo since 2003 and in 2016 announced a lifetime deal which could be worth as much as $1billion.
Electronic Arts has featured Ronaldo on the cover of its EA Sports’ Fifa series for two years but said: “We have seen the concerning report that details allegations against Cristiano Ronaldo.
“We are closely monitoring the situation, as we expect cover athletes and ambassadors to conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with EA’s values.”
Last week, Ronaldo was left out of Portugal’s squad for their forthcoming matches against Poland and Scotland, although his national side offered a statement in support. – Daily Mail