Even though the story had been bubbling ever since Portugal got knocked out of the World Cup, few people felt that it would happen. That Cristiano Ronaldo would actually leave Real Madrid.
But the Ballon d’Or holder is doing just that, as Juventus will pay Real Madrid €112m for the 33-year-old Ronaldo. In a statement to Real Madrid fans, Ronaldo wrote:
These years in Real Madrid, and in this city of Madrid, have been possibly the happiest of my life.
I only have feelings of enormous gratitude for this club, for its fans and for this city. I can only thank all of them for the love and affection I have received.
However, I believe that the time has come to open a new stage in my life and that is why I have asked the club to accept transferring me. I feel that way and I ask everyone, and especially our fans, to please understand me.
They have been absolutely wonderful for nine years. They have been nine unique years. It has been an emotional time for me, full of consideration but also hard because Real Madrid is of the highest demands, but I know very well that I will never forget that I have enjoyed football here in a unique way.
I have had fabulous team-mates on the field and in the dressing room, I have felt the warmth of an incredible crowd and together we have won three Championships in a row and four Championships in five years. And with them also, on an individual level, I have the satisfaction of having won four Gold Balls and three Gold Boots. All during my time in this immense and extraordinary club.
Real Madrid has conquered my heart, and that of my family, and that is why more than ever I want to say thank you: thanks to the club, the President, the directors, my colleagues, all the technical staff, doctors, physios and incredible workers that make everything work, that tirelessly pursue every minute detail.
Ronaldo joined Real from Manchester United for £80m in July 2009 and scored a club-record 450 goals and won the Ballon D’Or – awarded to the world’s best footballer – in 2008, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017.
He has helped them win the Champions League in four of the past five seasons, scoring in the 2014 and 2017 finals.
“For Real Madrid Cristiano Ronaldo will always be one of the great symbols,” said a club statement.
“Real Madrid wants to express its gratitude to a player who has proved to be the best in the world and who has marked one of the brightest times in the history of our club and world football.
“Real Madrid will always be your home.”
Fascinatingly, Juventus are set to play Real Madrid in a pre-season International Champions Cup tournament in the United States at FedEx Field in Washington on Saturday, 4 August. Imagine the publicity if that is Ronaldo’s Juventus debut?