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Ronaldo gets a spectacular welcome at Real unveiling

REAL Madrid winger Cristiano Ronaldo, the record 80-million pound (US$130 million) signing the club hopes will help restore it to former glories, was welcomed by 80,000 jubilant fans at the Santiago 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 Spanish capital again reverberated to the beat of rock music as a selection of Ronaldo's goals was replayed on a giant screen.

Ronaldo, who had never been to the Bernabeu before, emerged just after 9pm local time to a rapturous reception and was welcomed by club legend Alfredo di Stefano, compatriot Eusebio and club president Florentino Perez.

"I am very happy to be here," the World Player of the Year, clad in Real's all-white strip and his new No. 9 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.

The 24-year-old, who joined Real from English champion Manchester United, is the jewel in the crown of Perez's self-styled "spectacular sporting project".

Previous term

After bringing "galacticos" David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo to the club during his previous term, Perez has spent around US$300 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 Champions League titles from Barcelona and boost revenue via the sale of merchandise and marketing rights.

At a news conference later with club director general Jorge Valdano, Ronaldo said he was proud to have become the world's most expensive player. "If a club wants the best players it has to pay for it," he said. "I am happy to be the most expensive player in the world."

He said his former colleagues in Manchester and the United fans understood and respected his decision to leave after six years.

Valdano said the attention from non-sports media that Ronaldo was bringing to the club worried him but added he was sure the player had a successful career ahead.

Therefore a Spanish girlfriend was not a priority after reports suggested Ronaldo had spent part of his vacation in the company of Paris Hilton. "It's not one of the club's objectives that Cristiano gets a girlfriend," Valdano answered while trying to keep the focus on football. "The objective is that he plays the way he knows how."


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