Watch­ing ev­ery step he takes

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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

CRIS­TIANO RON­ALDO

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