Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus handlers tried their best to avoid the former Manchester United superstar having to face an awkward press conference on his return to Old Trafford last night, but he was still required to answer questions about the rape allegations hanging over him.
English journalists were deliberately avoided when questions were taken for the Juventus forward from a packed press conference room at the stadium Ronaldo once called home.
However, two Italian journalists put the Portuguese star on the spot, inquiring about the allegations made by Kathryn Mayorga that she was raped by the player in Las Vegas in 2009. Ronaldo has denied all allegations and his lawyers have threatened to sue the Germany publication, Der Spiegel, which first reported the claims.
The case has earned the world’s most famous and recognisable footballer attention and headlines that have extended far beyond the sports pages.
However, last night, at least, Ronaldo appeared relaxed and at ease as he repeated his strong denials over the allegations.
“You didn’t listen to what I say,” said Ronaldo. “I am a happy man. We did the statement two weeks ago, if I’m not wrong.
I am glad. Of course, I’m not going to lie in this situation, I’m very happy. My lawyers, they are confident and of course I am, too.
“The most important is I enjoy the football, I enjoy my life. The rest, I have people who take care of my life. Of course, the truth is always coming in the first position, so, I’m good.”
Ronaldo certainly gave the impression of a man relaxed about his current situation and insisted he is well aware of his status as one of the most iconic role models in the sporting world.
“I know I am an example. I know, 100%,” he said. “On the pitch and outside the pitch, so I am always smiling. I am a happy man. I’m blessed that I play in a fantastic club. I have a fantastic family, I have four kids, I am healthy. I have everything, so the rest, it doesn’t interfere on me. I’m very, very well.”
The controversy and serious nature of the allegations surrounding Ronaldo may prove a conflict for some United supporters when he returns to the Old Trafford pitch tonight.
The scorer of 118 goals in 292 games for United between 2003 and 2009, his magnificent Old Trafford career resulted in three Premier League titles, an FA Cup, two League Cups and the 2008 Champions League success.
While Ronaldo may make light of the allegations surrounding him, it is not unreasonable to expect that some United supporters may not treat them quite so casually. Regardless, the 33-year-old is relishing the chance to relive some happy Manchester memories.
“It is a huge thing to come back,” he said. “I remember what it was like in Manchester. My history, I won lots of trophies, cups, leagues, the Champions League. I remember the support of the fans.
Here I have many memories of victories and affection and in particular with Sir Alex Ferguson, to whom I send a big hug. He is a person who helped me so much.
“When I knew we were playing Manchester United, it was huge for me.”
Ronaldo returned to Old Trafford five years ago with Real Madrid, scoring a goal that helped to knock United out of the Champions League, the final European tie of Ferguson’s glorious career with the club.
Now, Ronaldo’s two major former clubs — United and Real Madrid — are battling through difficult periods and, while he refused to comment on Real’s highly-publicised problems, the prospect of facing United is one which, publicly at least, left him saying the right things.
“I don’t want to compare Real with Juve,” he said. “Both are unbelievable teams, fantastic clubs.
“I did my journey at Real. Now is a new chapter. Juve are one of the best in the world. I’m glad to play here in Manchester, Real and now at Juve. I’m a happy man and lucky man too.
“Manchester, they are a good team, they are playing at home, it will be tough for us. We have our weapons. We are Juve we know it will be tough.. If we play in a good way, the way the coach wants, we have a good chance to win. We have to respect Manchester United — a fantastic team, experienced coach — but I expect and look forward that Juve will win the game.”