TURIN: Juventus fans gave Cristiano Ronaldo a rousing welcome on Monday as the club prepared to unveil the superstar summer signing they hope will bring the Champions League trophy back to Turin.
Hundreds of fans gathered outside the Allianz Stadium in Turin from early morning singing “Ronaldo, bring us the Champions (League)” as the European competition’s most lethal striker of all time made a brief appearance ahead of his medical Monday.
The 33-year-old emerged from the club’s medical centre to sign autographs and shake hands amid raucous chants of his name before shooting back inside for further tests.
The five-times Ballon d’Or winner will be officially unveiled to the world’s media at a press conference scheduled for 6:30 pm (1630 GMT), in which he will sign a four-year deal that will earn him a reported 30 million euros a season.
Ronaldo fever hit Turin after the announcement last week of his 100 million-euro ($117 million) transfer from European champions Real Madrid, which Italian media reports will cost Juve a total of 350 million euros.
Many of the youngsters who came out to greet their new hero were wearing Juventus shirts emblazoned with “Ronaldo” and the number 7, which have been selling like hot cakes in the city.
Others wore t-shirts with the message “Bem-vindo” — “welcome” in Portuguese — which 5,000 shopkeepers put up on posters around the north-western Italian city ahead of Ronaldo’s arrival late Sunday.
One ice-cream parlour in Turin has even invented a “CR7” cone, featuring a Portuguese cherry liquor and chocolate shavings.
The mood of joy was not universally shared. His costly signing upset leaders of one minority union at an automobile plant in southern Italy owned by Fiat-Chrysler — in turn owned by the same holding company as Juventus.
They called a protest strike for Monday but only five out of the plant’s 1,700 workers turned out in support of the action dismissed as a “stunt” by bigger unions representing the workers in Melfi, in the Basilicata region.
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Juventus fans are hoping that Ronaldo’s arrival will push them onto Europe’s top table.
Fresh from their seventh Serie A title in as many years and four straight domestic doubles, the Old Lady of Italian football have struggled to turn domestic dominance into European success as they strive for the continent’s holy grail.
“Our hope is to win the Champions League that for now is the only objective that we’ve not been able to conquer,” says Francesco, 38, from the Tuscan city of Pisa.
“Ronaldo coming will only bring good things to Juventus… He’ll help others to learn things that only champions like him can do.”
Ronaldo has scored 120 Champions League goals, more than anyone else in the history of the competition, and won four out of the last five editions with Real Madrid.
Juve haven’t won the competition since 1996 but reached the final in 2015 and 2017, where they were bested respectively by Barcelona and Ronaldo’s former club.
Mario, 47, from Brescia in Lombardy, got up at 0430 (0230 GMT) to be at the stadium in time to see Ronaldo.
He was at the Allianz Stadium for the first leg of last season’s Champions League quarter-final — won 3-0 by Madrid — when Juve fans rose to their feet to applaud Ronaldo’s outrageous bicycle kick goal.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side were effectively knocked out of the Champions League by Ronaldo in the last two seasons, with the Portuguese scoring a brace in the 2017 final and slotting home the controversial stoppage-time penalty that thwarted an incredible Juve comeback from three goals down and saw them exit at the quarter-final stage.
“I applauded him because he scored a spectacular goal. Now we can enjoy watching him,” says Mario.
“I went to Cardiff for the 2017 Champions League final where he gave us a slap. Now he has to repay us with interest.”