Juventus fans will get their first glimpse of superstar summer signing Cristiano Ronaldo in rarefied surroundings on Sunday, when he makes his debut for the Italian champions at the foot of the Alps a week before the start of the new Serie A season.
Ronaldo, who signed for Juventus from European champions Real Madrid in a shock 100 million euro ($117 million) deal exactly a month ago, will wear the Juventus kit for the first time in the club’s traditional pre-season friendly between Juve’s first XI and a “B” team in Villar Perosa, a small town 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of Turin.
Set in a valley at the foot of the Italian Alps, Villar Perosa (population: roughly 4,100) is the home of the family estate and summer retreat of the powerful Agnellis, who, apart from a brief period around the Second World War, have run Juventus since 1923 and established the traditional alpine curtain raiser.
Members of the industrial dynasty — founders of Fiat car manufacturers and often called the “Italian Kennedys” — have lived at “The Castle” in Villar Perosa since the 19th century, while deceased former club chairman Gianni Agnelli was town mayor between 1945 and 1980.
– Up close and personal –
Used to imposing arenas such as the Camp Nou, Old Trafford and the Bernabeu, current Ballon d’Or holder Ronaldo will take his first steps in black and white stripes at the town’s compact ground, named after notoriously brutal Italy centre-back Gaetano Scirea.
There should be more fans at the match than the entire population of Villar Perosa, with the 5,000 tickets available long-since sold out and even more supporters desperate to try and catch a glimpse of their new idol.
Such is the enthusiasm for Ronaldo’s debut, that special security measures have been drafted in the town for the match, including a complete ban on the sale of alcohol from Saturday.
Ronaldo’s arrival had sparked rumours that the match would be moved to the Allianz Stadium such was the enthusiasm from fans after his signing, but the club decided to stick with the traditional bucolic setting.
That could mean Ronaldo gets even more up close and personal with Juve fans.
Established custom dictates that five minutes after half-time fans invade the pitch, bringing the game to a halt as fans charge after and greet their heroes.