The former Manchester United forward drew 85,000 fans to the Bernabéu for his presentation, a number that has not been bettered a decade later.
They just don’t do presentations like they used to do. After a raft of new player arrivals at Real Madrid this summer, the most well-attended of which was Eden Hazard’s unveiling, Cristiano Ronaldo’s triumphant first steps onto the Liga stage on 6 July, 2009, remains a record for a presentation with the Portuguese filling the Bernabéu to bursting point.
At the time, Ronaldo was the most expensive player in the world after signing for Madrid from Manchester United for 96 million euros. It was a staggering fee at the time, paid out in the middle of a crippling economic crisis in Spain, naturally raising a few eyebrows and several comments about the financial impropriety in football. Nine seasons, 450 goals, four Champions League titles and a raft of personal records later, that fee now seems like a bargain, particularly given the state of the market today.
Ronaldo started off in style as well. In 1984, Diego Maradona arrived in Napoli to the acclaim of 80,000 fans in the San Paolo. Ronaldo’s unveiling at the Bernabéu drew 85,000 with Florentino Pérez, Alfredo di Stéfano and Portugal legend Eusébio acting as masters of ceremony but it was actually former president Ramón Calderón who had sealed the deal for Ronaldo, finally persuading Alex Ferguson to do business with the club he had famously sell he would not “sell a virus to.”
Ronaldo: “Real Madrid is a more special club than Barcelona”
Ronaldo arrived with a clear view of what he wanted to do. To paraphrase the curmudgeonly Scot, knock Barça off their high horse. “Real Madrid is a more special club than Barcelona,” Ronaldo said to universal approval. “I will be under more pressure here than in Manchester but I am ambitious and will give everything I have.”
Eusébio predicted that Ronaldo would “help Madrid to win La Décima,” which he eventually did under Carlo Ancelotti in 2013-14 after a difficult first season that Madrid ended potless and Ronaldo spent a good deal of injured.
Ten years later, after winning a league title with new club Juventus, Real endured a miserable season in Ronaldo’s absence, going through three coaches and finishing third in the league, a record points total behind Barcelona and with a fan base calling for a huge overhaul this summer. That has been delivered with five new signings to date; it remains to be seen if it will have the same impact as the arrival of one player 10 years ago.