Madrid: Real Madrid winger Cristiano Ronaldo, the record £80 million ($130 million) signing the club hope will help restore them to former glories, was welcomed by 80,000 jubilant fans at the Bernabeu on Monday.
After 50,000 turned out for the presentation of Brazilian playmaker Kaka last week, the club faithful began converging on the stadium around lunchtime to welcome the Portuguese international.
The huge arena in the centre of the Spanish capital again reverberated to the beat of rock music as a selection of Ronaldo’s goals were replayed on a giant screen in the centre of the pitch.
Shortly after 9 pm local time, the world player of the year emerged to a rapturous reception and was welcomed on stage by club legend Alfredo di Stefano, compatriot Eusebio and club president Florentino Perez.
“I am very happy to be here,” Ronaldo, clad in Real’s all-white strip and his new number nine shirt, told fans.
“A childhood dream has come true for me, to come to Real Madrid. It’s incredible that the stadium is full just for me,” he added, before showing off his skills with the ball and greeting fans around the stadium.
The 24-year-old, who joined Real from English champions Manchester United, is the jewel in the crown of Perez’s self-styled “spectacular sporting project”.
After bringing “galacticos” David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo to the club during his previous term, Perez has spent around €215 million ($300.5 million) on Ronaldo, Kaka, French striker Karim Benzema and defender Raul Albiol.
He is hoping the signing of such high-profile players will help Real take the Spanish and European Champions League crowns from arch-rivals Barcelona and boost revenue via the sale of replica merchandise and marketing rights.