MILAN – Cristiano Ronaldo is ready to play for Juventus against Udinese on Saturday despite rape claims made against him, although his coach Massimiliano Allegri admits he may be tempted to rest the embattled star.
“I could go with a front three of Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo, or alternatively one of them could be rested,” said Allegri, the coach of the Italian champions.
“Ronaldo is doing well, he is ready to play. His professionalism and his composure on and off the pitch are not in question.”
US police said on Monday they had reopened an investigation into accusations by former American model Kathryn Mayorga that the Portuguese superstar raped her in a Las Vegas hotel in June 2009.
Ronaldo, 33, has strenuously denied the accusations.
“Rape is an abominable crime that goes against everything that I am and believe in,” he said.
However, there have been off-field consequences to the controversy.
On Friday, shares in Juventus lost almost 10 percent of their value on the Milan stock exchange, closing down 9.92% at €1.19.
Just two weeks ago, shares in the Italian champions rose 180 percent to a record level of over €1.80.
Furthermore, Nike has said it is “deeply concerned” by the allegations against their star client, whose relationship with the US sportswear giant is rumoured to be worth $1 billion.
“We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations and will continue to closely monitor the situation,” a Nike spokesman told AFP.
According to Forbes magazine, Ronaldo is one of only three athletes to have been given a lifetime deal with Nike, joining an elite club that also includes NBA icons LeBron James and Michael Jordan.
EA Sports, for whom Ronaldo is a leading figure in their phenomenally successful Fifa video game market, also described the allegations as “concerning”.
“We are closely monitoring the situation, as we expect cover athletes and ambassadors to conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with EA’s values,” the group said in a statement.
Juventus have so far stood behind Ronaldo, who moved to Juventus in the summer in a €100 million deal from Real Madrid.
However, the Italian club’s reaction to the issue has angered some fans.
The Portuguese striker “has shown in recent months his great professionalism and dedication, which is appreciated by everyone at Juventus”, the club wrote on Twitter on Thursday, breaking their silence over the allegations.
“The events allegedly dating back to almost 10 years ago do not change this opinion, which is shared by anyone who has come into contact with this great champion.”
Juventus later posted a video on YouTube and Twitter showing Ronaldo training, with the caption: “Juventus go for goal. Cristiano Ronaldo finds the target!”
The defending Serie A champions’ tweets were widely panned on social media as “shockingly dismissive and insensitive”.
“You’d expect a more nuanced and sensitive approach from such a mega organisation,” said one tweet.
Mayorga’s attorney Leslie Stovall told reporters his client had suffered years of trauma as a result of the alleged attack, and found the courage to speak out thanks to the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault at the hands of powerful men.
Mayorga claims she was pressured into signing a non-disclosure agreement in 2010 to keep the alleged rape secret, and is seeking at least $200 000 in penalties and damages.AFP