'My lawyers are confident' over allegations, insists Ronaldo
A defiant Cristiano Ronaldo insisted he was a role model on and off the pitch as he expressed every confidence that he would be vindicated over the rape allegations that have engulfed him.
Speaking publicly for the first time since being accused of raping Kathryn Mayorga, an American model, in a Las Vegas hotel room in 2009, Ronaldo chose the eve of a reunion with Manchester United to launch a staunch defence of his character and insist he would not let the accusations affect him.
Ronaldo, now of Juventus, faces United for only the second time since leaving the club for a then world-record £80million fee in June 2009 - the same month he is alleged to have raped Mayorga - but preparations for tonight's game were overshadowed by the 33-year-old facing questions over his reputed behaviour.
Wearing a diamond-encrusted watch, ring and earrings, a navy blue shirt buttoned to the collar underneath a navy blazer and flashing the whitest of smiles, Ronaldo cut as defiant a figure in Old Trafford's Europa suite as he does on the field as he maintained his innocence.
"I know I am an example. I know, 100 per cent," he declared. "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."
Police in Las Vegas have reopened their investigation from 2009 at Mayorga's request. Mayorga reached an out-of-court settlement with Ronaldo in 2010 involving a $370,000 payment for agreeing never to go public with the allegations but her lawyers have said they are now seeking to declare the non-disclosure agreement void.
Pressed on the allegations, Ronaldo said: “You didn’t listen to what I say. 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 thing 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.”
It remains to be seen what sort of reception awaits Ronaldo at Old Trafford tonight in the wake of the allegations but it is likely to be little different from the rapturous applause he received on his previous visit here in the Champions League in March 2013 with Real Madrid.
On that occasion, Alex Ferguson had taken the unprecedented step of asking Alan Keegan, the match announcer, to read out Real’s team second and Ronaldo’s name last.
But any hopes of killing the Portuguese with kindness ultimately backfired, with the forward scoring the winner in Real’s 2-1 victory, which was enough to sweep the Spanish giants into the Champions League quarter-finals.
Ronaldo refused to celebrate that night and said “my reaction will be the same” if he found the net this evening. The storm in his private life has certainly done little to quell his confidence as he boldly predicted a Juventus win.
“We have to respect Manchester United – fantastic team, experienced coach – but I expect and look forward that Juventus will win the game,” said Ronaldo, who missed Juventus’s last outing in the Champions League against Young Boys after being sent off in their first Group H tie against Valencia.
“It’s a huge thing to come back. 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. Alex Ferguson, to whom I send a big hug. I never forget him. He was a huge lift in my career and I express best wishes to him. When I knew we would be playing Manchester United, it was huge for me.
“Now I’m happy to be at such a great team like Juventus. It’s a new chapter in my life after Manchester United and Real Madrid. I’m a happy man and a lucky man, too.”
United manager Jose Mourinho was in charge of Real when they beat Ferguson’s side in 2013. Mourinho’s relationship with Ronaldo soured in Madrid after bright beginnings, with the player having to be restrained by team-mates after a Copa del Rey match against Valencia in January 2013, when he lunged for the manager in the dressing room after Mourinho accused him of ignoring his defensive duties.
Mourinho was full of praise for Ronaldo yesterday, though, and in no doubt where the main threat lies for United. “I thought Cristiano is in a level where he doesn’t need these questions and these answers, he is one of the best players of all time and nobody can say different than that,” Mourinho said.
Meanwhile, Romelu Lukaku believes United have to show that they are capable of playing fast attacking football from the start, and not only when their backs are against the wall.
“We have a plan every time we go out against a team but I don’t know how to explain it,” the striker said. “It’s just something we need to get out of. “We need to start with much more confidence and much more intensity on the offensive side.
“Offensively, we are set up really well but then it’s on the ball where we need to make a difference.