(Reuters) – Ronaldo bought Cruzeiro this weekend but the World Cup winner has appealed to fans of the Brazilian club that gave him his start as a player not to treat him like a superhero but as a committed administrator who can help the struggling team.
A 16-year-old Ronaldo made his professional debut with Cruzeiro in 1993 before going on to become one of the greatest centre forwards in footballing history.
Now a confident businessman with interests in soccer and sports marketing, the former Real Madrid player paid 400 million reais ($70 million) on Saturday for a controlling stake nL1N2T30BN in the Belo Horizonte club.
Cruzeiro are one of Brazil’s biggest teams but have been stuck in the second division for two years and face a third season in Serie B in 2022.
They are also deep in debt but Ronaldo asked fans who celebrated his purchase to be patient.
“It’s time to return,” he wrote on Instagram. “It’s my turn to try and open doors for the team. Not as a hero. Not with superpowers to single-handedly change reality. But with immense responsibility. With intelligent and sustainable management for medium- and long-term growth.”
“I don’t have all the answers to the questions that I ask myself and I possibly won’t have all the answers to the questions that you will ask me,” he wrote in an open letter to fans.
“What I do know is that the kid who learnt at Cruzeiro that dreams can come true today makes me believe that it is possible to rescue the club from its crisis.”
It is the second foray into management for Brazil’s former PSV Eindhoven, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Barcelona and Corinthians striker. Ronaldo bought a 51% stake in Spanish club Real Valladolid in 2018.
The Cruzeiro deal came just months after the Brazilian Congress sanctioned a law that allows its football clubs, historically fan owned and closed off to outside investors, to become businesses.
Ronaldo pitched the transaction as the first of many he and his advisors say could transform football in the South American nation.
“We are starting a new chapter in the history of the club,” he said. “I am coming back because I believe Cruzeiro can come back. I’m returning to be part of change in Brazilian football.”
($1 = 5.6959 reais)
(Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Ken Ferris)