ZURICH - Even at a world-record price of R1billion, 24-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo is giving Real Madrid exactly what it paid for.
The world player of the year scored twice on his Champions League debut for Real on Tuesday, firing in trademark free kicks at key moments in a 5-2 victory against FC Zurich.
Add an array of his usual flicks and shimmies, plus glimpses of thrilling link play with his illustrious new teammates Kaka and Raul, and there was plenty to entertain a global audience watching the world's most popular club football competition. With Ronaldo on his team, Real president Florentino Perez's business model for a new Galacticos era can make perfect sense.
Perez persuaded Spanish banks during a financial crisis to fund a $360million spending spree on players who would restore the club's brand after seven years of Champions League failure. Since most of the money was spent on forwards rather than defenders, Ronaldo might just have to score two, and the team five, each game to be sure of winning. The ever-confident Portuguese shrugged off any suggestion he was under pressure to deliver.
"I never feel pressure," Ronaldo said. "I just work to score goals. I scored two and I'm really pleased for that but the important thing is to win games."
Ronaldo's skipping celebration run after scoring was more about boyish delight than arrogance at once more making the stunning seem commonplace.
"He has proven again he can do whatever he wants," Real coach Manuel Pelligrini said. "He has already proven enough."
Cruising with a 3-0 lead at halftime, Real's defensive shortcomings allowed Zurich a penalty and a header off a corner midway through the second period to bring the Letzigrund Stadium to life.
When Real needed a late insurance goal, Ronaldo won the free kick and fired a relatively ordinary 30m shot whose reputation preceded it.
Ronaldo's fast start on Tuesday suggests that he can live up to his side of Real's bargain. - Sapa-AP