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Ronaldo scores to keep Juventus perfect amid rape allegation turmoil

Cristiano Ronaldo shrugged off damaging rape allegations to score for Juventus as the Serie A champions beat Udinese 2-0 under the rain in northeastern Italy on Saturday to stretch their lead at the top of Serie A.

Ronaldo scores to keep Juventus perfect amid rape allegation turmoil
Ronaldo celebrates after scoring against Udinese Calcio on Saturday. Photo: MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP
The Portuguese striker lashed in the second goal after 37 minutes from the left following a cross from Croatia's Mario Mandzukic, four minutes after Rodrigo Bentancur's opener.
 
It was Ronaldo's fourth goal this season for Juventus, with the 33-year-old celebrating wildly with his teammates, as the Italian champions claimed their tenth consecutive win in all competitions.
 
Ronaldo remained tight-lipped after the game, giving a thumbs up as he left the dressing room where he was greeted by fans shouting “Cristiano! Cristiano!”
 
The superstar showed no sign of the immense pressure he is under amid damaging accusations which threaten his multi-million euro sporting empire. US police on Monday re-opened an investigation into claims by former American model Kathryn Mayorga that the five-time Ballon d'Or winner raped her in a Las Vegas hotel in June 2009.
 
“I don't know how things are for him at home, I don't live with him,” said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri. “What I know is what I see on the pitch. He trains hard, he is serene and today he scored an extraordinary goal.”
 
Juventus — with a maximum 24 points from eight Serie A games — open up a nine-point lead on second-placed Napoli who host Sassuolo on Sunday.
 
'Stronger than the mud'
 
With the eyes on the world on Ronaldo the match against lowly Udinese, in a small town not far from the border with Slovenia, attracted journalists from as far afield as China.
 
But the 'Ronaldo affair' appeared to have in no way dented the player's popularity among the fans who packed the 25,000-seater Stadio Friuli. He was greeted by the enthusiastic cries of dozens of children waiting for the team buses before the game, with one child running onto the pitch during warm-up to ask for his autograph.
 
“Stronger than the mud,” headlined Turin daily Tuttosport, a traditional backer of Juventus, above a photograph of Ronaldo dining with the team this week, and a bigger picture of the star smiling.
 
“CRSexe,” was the front-page headline on Rome-based Corriere dello Sport on Saturday, referring to the allegations. Another headline said “World of Juve shaken” after the club's share price plunged almost 10 percent on Friday. 
 
The back page was dominated by an advert for Ronaldo's line of underwear, featuring a full-page photograph of the player bare-chested.
 
Ronaldo has hired David Chesnoff, known as the lawyer of the stars, to defend him. The Las Vegas-based criminal lawyer has already worked with well-known athletes like Shaquille O'Neal, Mike Tyson and Andre Agassi.
 
After initially dismissing the rape claims as “fake news” on Instagram, Ronaldo took to social media during the week to “firmly deny” the accusations.
 
“Rape is an abominable crime that goes against everything that I am and believe in,” he said on his Twitter feed, which has 75 million followers.
 
Sponsors concerned
 
However, there have been off-field consequences to the controversy. Just two weeks ago, shares in Juventus rose 180 percent to a record level of over 1.80 euros. On Friday, they closed down 9.92 percent at 1.19 euros on the Milan stock exchange.
 
Nike has said it is “deeply concerned” by the allegations against one of their marquee athletes whose relationship with the US sportswear giant is rumoured to be worth $1 billion (€869 million).
 
EA Sports, for whom Ronaldo is a leading figure in their phenomenally successful FIFA video game market, also described the allegations as “concerning”.
 
Juventus have so far stood behind the player who moved to Turin in the summer in a €100 million ($115 million) deal from Real Madrid. However, the Italian club's reaction to the issue has angered some fans as “dismissive” and “insensitive”.
 
Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici, nevertheless, underlined the club's support on Saturday.
 
“We have already made clear our total support for the player, who has always been very active on social issues and been a great professional beyond reproach, as confirmed by his teammates,” Paratici told Sky Sport Italia. “We are behind him all the way. He has been an exemplary professional and an exemplary person throughout his career.”
 
Before Saturday's game Ronaldo had received encouragement from his mother.
 
“Best wishes son for you and your team, because together we are stronger. Go Juventus,” wrote Maria Dolores Alveiro on Instagram, alongside a photo of Ronaldo embracing her.
 
By AFP's Stanislas Touchot
 

FOOTBALL

Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.

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