Juventus are ready to welcome back Cristiano Ronaldo on Saturday evening despite growing concern from his sponsors over allegations of rape.
The club were described as ‘awful’ by Gary Lineker after they released a statement in support of ‘great champion’ Ronaldo. Sponsors Nike and Electronic Arts distanced themselves from the 33-year-old amid a reopened police investigation.
Shares in Juventus fell sharply on Friday, with the stock price down almost 10 per cent. It has now crashed 18 per cent since the allegations emerged on Sunday.
His former side Manchester United also left themselves open to criticism by using the narrative of Ronaldo’s comeback to Old Trafford to promote ticket sales for their Champions League game against Juventus on October 23.
Ronaldo is being sued by Kathryn Mayorga, who says he raped her in the penthouse suite of a Las Vegas hotel in 2009. Ronaldo denies the charge and Juventus are ready to select him for the first time since the story broke. He is in contention for Saturday’s visit to Udinese after missing Tuesday’s Champions League game against Young Boys through suspension.
Manager Massimiliano Allegri said the £100million signing could start. ‘I must say that I’ve only known him as a person for three months, but over the years I’ve seen him as a serious person, both on and off the pitch,’ said Allegri.
‘He has broad shoulders, so much so that he can be completely focused on the match. After having a break from the Champions League, he is extremely ready to return, as he demonstrated in training yesterday.’
Lineker slammed Juve after the Serie A holders tweeted: ‘Ronaldo has shown in recent months his great professionalism . . . the events allegedly dating back to almost 10 years ago do not change this opinion, which is shared by anyone who has come into contact with this great champion.’
The former England striker posted in reply: ‘Whatever the legal outcome, this is awful from Juventus.’
The Old Lady of Italian football also tweeted a video of Ronaldo scoring in training and leaping into his trademark celebration.
On Thursday, Ronaldo was left out of Portugal’s squad for their forthcoming matches against Poland and Scotland, although his national side offered a statement in support.
Ronaldo’s sponsors Nike and Electronic Arts have expressed serious concern, however, and are keeping a close eye on the Las Vegas police investigation.
‘We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations and will continue to closely monitor the situation,’ said Nike, who have worked with Ronaldo since 2003 and in 2016 announced a lifetime deal which could be worth as much as $1billion.
Electronic Arts has featured Ronaldo on the cover of its EA Sports’ FIFA series for two years but said: ‘We have seen the concerning report that details allegations against Cristiano Ronaldo.
‘We are closely monitoring the situation, as we expect cover athletes and ambassadors to conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with EA’s values.’
United, meanwhile, have decided to use Ronaldo’s name to sell tickets for their Champions League tie with Juve.
Emails have been sent out to supporters this week — the latest coming on Friday at 2pm — saying: ‘A limited number of tickets to see Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford are on sale now. Buy tickets for this huge game today.’