Ronaldo draws huge crowd

MADRID: A capacity crowd of close to 80,000 people welcomed Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid on Monday, setting a new record for turnout at the presentation of a footballer, club officials said.

“I am very happy to be here,” the 24-year-old Portuguese winger told cheering fans at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in the Spanish capital after completing his much-desired move to the club from Manchester United. “For me it is the realisation of a childhood dream, which was to play for Real Madrid. I never expected the the stadium would be full just to see me. It is impressive,” he added.

The previous record for attendance at the unveiling of a footballer was set in July 1984 when Argentina’s Diego Maradona was presented at Naples after he joined the Italian side from FC Barcelona before 75,000 people. But while fans had to pay to see Maradona don the Naples jersey for the first time, entry to Ronaldo’s presentation in Madrid was free.

Ronaldo, the 2008 FIFA world player of the year, was wearing the Number 9 jersey once sported by club legend Alfredo di Stefano.