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Ballon d'Or host James Nesbitt plots Ronaldo return to Red Devils

James Nesbitt said he is hoping to convince Cristiano Ronaldo to return to Manchester United when he hosts the Ballon d'Or ceremony next month.

The Northern Irish actor is a long-time fan of the Red Devils and joked he would take a shirt with Ronaldo's name and number to Zurich with him.

The Fifa ceremony, which crowns the best player in the world, will come at a time when the organisation is under intense scrutiny for alleged corruption.

But Nesbitt said he hoped the occasion could be used to remind fans across the world about the "purity of the game".

He said: "I'm a football fan and I think what it should be, during difficult times for that organisation, is a reminder of the purity of football - why grown-up men get paid an awful lot of money to play football and why they still play with the same passion they played with when they were boys kicking it around in a park.

"I was one of those boys kicking it around in a park, so hopefully I can bring some of that enthusiasm and simplicity of what we love about football to it, and maybe try and remind everyone involved about the purity of the game.

"Whatever has happened inside football, I'm still a football fan - my three big loves outside of my family are Northern Ireland, Manchester United and Coleraine, and I still follow them with the same passion as when I was a child."

Best known for his roles in Cold Feet and The Hobbit, Nesbitt has tried to help financially support his local team, Coleraine, when they faced financial difficulties.

Asked whether his support for Manchester United would have him rooting for a Ronaldo victory in the Ballon d'or, Nesbitt said: " I'm taking a shirt with Ronaldo's name and number on it, and hopefully he'll put it on and get on the plane back with me."

Nesbitt also addressed some of the criticism directed at him online after he was announced as the gala's host, saying he was just as confused himself.

He said: "I keep thinking the organisers are suddenly going to go 'oh hold on, we didn't mean you'.

"I very rarely read things about myself, because that way leads to disaster, but I've seen there is quite a lot of scepticism about, a lot of people asking why - I don't know."

The Ballon d'Or ceremony will be held on on January 11.

PA Media