Why Cristiano Ronaldo can help Juventus sparkle in his twilight years

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The best player in the world now belongs to “the strongest team in the world” after Juventus lured Cristiano Ronaldo to Turin – but should we believe the hype?

There were hints that Ballon d’Or holder Ronaldo, the 33-year-old goalscoring machine from Madeira, was finally ready to leave Real Madrid following nine prolific campaigns at the Bernabeu.

But when it emerged in early July that Juve were the front-runners for his signature, one question was repeated across Europe: what can he achieve in Italy that he has not already mastered in Spain?

Ronaldo left Madrid as a five-time Champions League winner – including one from his Manchester United years. With Real he won both La Liga and the Copa del Rey twice and toasted European Championship glory with Portugal as his predatory powers peaked in 2016.

Was it his record in front of goal that convinced Juve to spend €100 million – an Italian record – on a player who will be 37 when his four-year contract at Allianz Stadium reaches its end?

Ronaldo won three Champions League titles in a row with Real (four overall) and five Balon d'Ors.

Ronaldo won three Champions League titles in a row with Real (four overall) and five Balon d’Ors.

Most likely yes, as conquering Europe for the first time since 1996 remains the main target for Juve, and Ronaldo – arriving in Turin on the back of three straight Champions League triumphs – looks like the missing piece for the Bianconeri, who have lost in the final twice in four years.

He is the all-time top-scorer in Europe’s premier club competition with an eye-watering tally of 120 goals and, with seven Champions League hat-tricks, he is matched only by his great rival Lionel Messi. In 2015/16, he became the first player to register three hat-tricks in a single European season.

Under former boss Zinedine Zidane, Real often seemed unstoppable on Tuesday and Wednesday nights but more often than not they were dug out of difficult positions by the relentless Ronaldo.

For example, without his goals last season, Real would have earned only five points in the group stage.

Juve, meanwhile, have lacked that edge. When they did display grit in their remarkable quarter-final rally at the Bernabeu in April, they were undone by none other than Ronaldo, with a last-gasp penalty.

He also offers unbridled star power to ambitious Juve, who want to capture some of the international adulation afforded to the likes of Barcelona, who boast Messi, and the Premier League’s top six.

So enthused by the opportunity Juve now have to go all the way in Europe, Leonardo Bonucci clamoured to return to Turin following his disappointing year with AC Milan. Argentinian marksman Gonzalo Higuain had to make way for Ronaldo as a swap deal was completed for the Italy centre-back.

Ronaldo’s move did not, however, kick-start a chain of big-money transfers across the continent and, heading into the opening weekend of the La Liga season, Real have resisted the urge to make big moves.

An omen suggesting the power dynamic in Spain might shift in the post-Ronaldo era was Atletico Madrid’s Super Cup victory over Real – without him, Los Blancos lacked killer instinct in extra-time.

Ronaldo’s Italian adventure starts at unglamorous Chievo on Saturday, and the cavernous Stadio Bentegodi will be packed out as fans flock to get a glimpse of Serie A’s new marquee man.

Ronaldo has played in two friendlies for Juve so far and will start against Chievo in Serie A on Saturday.

Ronaldo has played in two friendlies for Juve so far and will start against Chievo in Serie A on Saturday.

Indeed, the media have been advised to arrive at the Verona venue at least three hours before kick-off, such is the level of interest in a fixture which last term drew only 23,700 supporters.

Ronaldo has already appeared in black and white, featuring at Juve’s traditional pre-season friendly in Villar Perosa, where he delighted those assembled with the opener in a 5-0 victory over Juventus ‘B’.

John Elkann, the Italian industrialist with a controlling stake in Juve, said of Ronaldo afterwards: “Now he’s on board, the strongest team in the world has the strongest player in the world.

“It gives me great pleasure not just to see the ease with which he wears the Bianconero shirt, but to see how perfectly he’s integrated with the group.”

Ronaldo may not have the time – or the legs – to contribute even a quarter of the 450 goals he plundered for Real to the Juve cause, but his strength of will should lift the Italians to new heights.

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Massimiliano Allegri confirms Cristiano Ronaldo will start Juventus' Serie A opener

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Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has confirmed that Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo will start in the champions’ Serie A opener against Chievo on Saturday.

The defending champions open up their 2018/19 campaign in Verona and summer signing Ronaldo, 33, will be in the Bianconeri’s starting XI, Allegri confirmed on Friday.

“Ronaldo will make his debut,” Allegri said in his pre-match press conference, adding that Ronaldo is curious to find out about life in Italy.

“I didn’t give Ronaldo any advice. He’s very intrigued to understand how teams play in Italy.

“(Wojciech) Szczesny, (Giorgio) Chiellini, (Leonardo) Bonucci and (Miralem) Pjanic will play and the two full-backs on each side will be (Joao) Cancelo and Alex Sandro.

“Everyone is in good condition, even (Mario) Mandzukic and (Blaise) Matuidi, who both went all the way to the final in the World Cup.”

Juventus' new No7: Cristiano Ronaldo.

Juventus’ new No7: Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo caused a stir in world football when he announced earlier this summer he would leave Real Madrid after nine glorious years in Spain.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner was brought to Turin in a €100 million transfer from Madrid last month and has so far appeared in two warm-up friendlies for Juve, but he did not travel with the team to the United States for their pre-season tour.

And Allegri has warned his team not to rely too much on the behemoth as they target an eighth straight Serie A title.

“It’s time to put aside the excitement of the arrival of great players and the greatest of all, we have to keep our feet on the ground, keep a low profile,” continued Allegri.

“We mustn’t make the mistake of thinking that we can win because we have Cristiano. He’s an added value in a team that has played two Champions (League) finals in the last four years.

“Players like Ronaldo are different from all the others: it shows in what he has won, he is a stimulus for everyone.

“It will be a difficult campaign and we need to be prepared and remain focused, because tomorrow at 18:00 (20:00 UAE) the season begins and we will find a tough Chievo side waiting for us.

“I’m curious to see how the team fares.”

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Watch: Cristiano Ronaldo dazzles with goal on debut for Juventus

David Cooper 13/08/2018
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Cristiano Ronaldo showed his class as he made a fine start to life in a Juventus shirt.

Nearly 5,000 supporters turned up to watch the Portuguese in action against the B team and were rewarded with a goal from their new star in the eighth minute.

Ronaldo broke the offiside trap to go clean through on goal before slotting his effort past the keeper. He then forced an error from defender Riccardo Cappellini who stabbed the ball into his own net three minutes later.

The 33-year-old was involved again when he set up Douglas Costa whose effort hit the post before he assisted Paulo Dybala.

Ronaldo didn’t emerge after half-time and the first team won the game 5-0. Watch his excellent finish in the video below.

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