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Ronaldo set to begin Italian adventure in intimate alpine friendly

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Ronaldo set to begin Italian adventure in intimate alpine friendly
Juventus fans celebrate Cristiano Ronaldo's arrival in July. Photo: AFP
10:15 CEST+02:00
Juventus fans will get their first glimpse of superstar summer signing Cristiano Ronaldo in rarified 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 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 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.

Used to imposing arenas such as the 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, special security measures were 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, 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.

Ronaldo joined the team for training on Wednesday after their return from the International Champions Cup in the United States.

His domestic form last season -- despite scoring 26 goals in La Liga -- was below the almost superhuman levels that had characterised his time in Spain as Madrid finished third behind local rivals Atletico and a whole 17 points behind champions Barcelona.

Juventus, though, have signed Ronaldo not to cement their domestic dominance, after winning seven straight league titles, but to boost their international profile and bag their first Champions League triumph in over two decades.

In 2017/18, Ronaldo was his usual dominant self in Europe as he smashed 15 goals to top the Champions League scoring charts and fired Real Madrid to continental glory for the third straight year.

Interest in Juve and in Italian football has spiked following Ronaldo's arrival. July visits to the club museum shot up 15 percent compared to last year, and were nearly a third more than in 2016, and the over 29,000 season tickets available to fans have been sold despite a deeply unpopular 30 percent price bump announced before Ronaldo's arrival.

READ ALSO: 'I want to show I'm not like others': Ronaldo gives first official speech after arriving in Turin

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