At 33, Cristiano Ronaldo wants a new challenge

A confident Cristiano Ronaldo on the treadmill during his medical screening at Juventus. Within a day of the $160 million signing's arrival in Italy, the Serie A giants had sold 520,000 shirts bearing his name and added a million Twitter followers.
A confident Cristiano Ronaldo on the treadmill during his medical screening at Juventus. Within a day of the $160 million signing's arrival in Italy, the Serie A giants had sold 520,000 shirts bearing his name and added a million Twitter followers.PHOTO: TWITTER/JUVENTUSFCEN

Insisting he is not past his prime, star wants to make Juve Champions League winners and grab another Ballon d'Or

TURIN (Italy) • If anyone thought that Cristiano Ronaldo was taking a step towards retirement by leaving Real Madrid, then they would have been sorely mistaken.

The striker took the opportunity, as he was unveiled at Juventus on Monday, to emphasise that his career remains on an upward trajectory. This is a player yearning for more titles, more European glory, another Ballon d'Or.

Ronaldo also disappointed anyone expecting a fond or emotional tribute to his nine years in Spain.

"I'm not sad actually," the 33-year-old said. "I'm here because it is a new challenge. It is a big club.

"Usually players of my age go to Qatar and China, with all due respect. To come to this club at this stage of my career I am very happy, so I am very grateful to the club for this opportunity."

They are equally grateful to have him - a scorer of 450 goals since 2009-10. Only four fewer, according to Opta, than all of Juventus' strikers combined in the same time.

Before even kicking a ball, Ronaldo has created a buzz around Juventus for which there is no easy comparison in Italian football this century. Within 24 hours of his €100 million (S$160 million) transfer being made official last Tuesday, Juventus had sold 520,000 shirts with his name.

The club also added a million Twitter followers overnight.

Ronaldo is a commercial machine but he is not trying to eke as much financially out of the tail end of his career by going to the club who could afford to be the most generous.

He did, however, confirm that the Italian champions were the only team who made an offer for him this summer.

"I feel great," said the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, who will reportedly earn an annual salary of €30 million. "For me it is another challenge. It will be tough, I know that. The league is tough. But I will be ready, Juventus is ready... I look forward to starting the league and winning many titles.

READY TO FIGHT

It will be tough, I know that.

The league is tough. But I will be ready, Juventus is ready. I will be there. I feel good, I feel motivated.

CRISTIANO RONALDO, dispelling talk that he is ready to retire.

"I want to win. I want to be the best. Who knows, maybe I will be awarded the Ballon d'Or again but things will happen naturally...

"Juventus can have many successes. They have won domestic Cups and titles and reached Champions League finals... I hope I can take Juventus to an even higher level."

He has won the Champions League five times, once with Manchester United and four times with Real. He will now turn his attention to helping Juventus, beaten in the final a year ago, to win the competition for a third time.

The overall impression of Monday's appearance was that Juventus have not signed a megastar on the decline but a megastar who is more stable, more mature and able to guide them to greater glory.

"I am well - physically, mentally and emotionally," the Portugal captain said. "That is why I am so proud of being here and the way I have come here.

"It gives me so much momentum for the future... It is very emotional for me at the club now because I am not 23, I am 33."

He also confirmed that his transfer would not spell the end of his international career after Portugal's last-16 exit at the World Cup.

"I will work with my country and I will not turn my back on them," he said. "This is just one new step in my career."

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2018, with the headline 'At 33, Ron wants a new challenge'. Print Edition | Subscribe