Cristiano Ronaldo drives away after completing a training session at Juventus in Turin on Thursday. Photo: Luca Bruno/AP

MILAN – Italian champions Juventus on Thursday broke their silence over rape allegations against superstar player Cristiano Ronaldo, saying the claims made by an American woman do not change their opinion of the Portuguese striker.

“Cristiano Ronaldo has shown in recent months his great professionalism and dedication, which is appreciated by everyone at Juventus,” the reigning seven-time Italian champions said on Twitter.

“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.”

The case has threatened the reputation of the Portuguese superstar, arguably the world’s best footballer, with Las Vegas police this week saying they would reopen their file on the matter.

Ronaldo on Wednesday denied accusations by a former American model that he raped her in a Las Vegas hotel in 2009, and said his conscience is clear.

Ronaldo’s denial came as lawyers for his accuser said they had obtained damning correspondence between the footballer and his legal team.

The 33-year-old has been left out of Portugal’s next four internationals, the national coach Fernando Santos said earlier on Thursday, days after the rape allegations resurfaced.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner missed the two internationals Portugal played in September.

At the time, Santos suggested that his absence was temporary, and intended to help the star adapt after his move from Real Madrid to Juventus. 

Ronaldo moved to Juventus in the summer in a €100 million deal.

Meanwhile, pressure built on Ronaldo from his sponsors on Thursday after Nike joined EA Sports in expressing their deep concern with the rape allegation facing the soccer star.

Late on Thursday night, he received public backing from his Italian club Juventus, shortly after Nike issued their statement to The Associated Press.

Nike has had a contract with the 33-year-old Ronaldo, one of the wealthiest and most famous soccer players in the world, since 2003.

The latest terms signed in 2016 are worth a reported $1 billion, and Ronaldo has suggested that it was a deal “for life”.

But the Beaverton, Oregon-based apparel makers are troubled by the details emerging in a lawsuit filed last week in a Nevada state court by a woman who alleges she was raped by Ronaldo in Las Vegas in 2009.

“We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations and will continue to closely monitor the situation,” Nike said in an emailed statement to the AP.

Ronaldo wears Nike boots and appears in their advertising.

The Portugal captain is also the face of the EA Sports FIFA video game franchise, appearing on the cover of the 2019 game that was released worldwide last week.

“We have seen the concerning report that details allegations against Cristiano Ronaldo,” EA Sports told the AP.

“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.”

AFP, AP