Ex-Brazil striker Ronaldo buys controlling stake in club that launched his pro career

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Brazilian football great Ronaldo has completed the purchase of a majority stake in Cruzeiro, the club that launched his glittering professional career.

The 45-year-old agreed to pay 400 million reais (70 million US dollars) for 90 per cent of Cruzeiro’s shares in a deal coordinated by Brazilian investment bank XP.

“I’m very happy to have concluded this operation,” Ronaldo told reporters on Saturday. “I want to give something back to Cruzeiro and help them return to where they belong,” he added, referring to Cruzeiro’s current position in Brazil’s Serie B.

The announcement came a day after Cruzeiro’s members voted in favour of a change to bylaws that allows the club to be acquired by investors, Xinhua reports. In August, Brazil’s parliament approved a law that paved the way for clubs, which have historically been owned by fans, to be transformed into limited companies.

“We are certain that this will be a pioneering initiative in Brazilian football,” Cruzeiro president Sergio Rodrigues said.

XP chief executive Jose Berenguer said the transaction would be the “first of many” similar deals in the South American country as debt-saddled clubs seek a financial lifeline.

Two-time Brazilian Serie A champions Botafogo are expected to be the next side to become privately owned and run as a profit-orientated company.

“This is the first bit of business in an important new frontier for the investment banking market in Brazil, the country of football,” Berenguer said.

“I have no doubt this is transformational in the history of Brazilian sport. We will have clubs that are stronger, with the capacity for global investment. Brazilian football will never be the same again.”

Cruzeiro are the third football outfit in which Ronaldo has invested. In 2014, he became a part owner of Fort Lauderdale Strikers, a US second-tier club that ceased operating in 2017 because of financial problems. In 2018, he bought a 51 per cent stake in Spanish side Real Valladolid.

Ronaldo began his career at Cruzeiro in 1993, scoring 56 goals in 58 matches across all competitions for the Belo Horizonte club before moving to PSV Eindhoven in July 1994.

The striker later represented Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Corinthians before retiring in 2011 following a series of debilitating knee injuries and thyroid problems.

He scored 62 goals in 98 matches for Brazil and was a member of the national team’s triumphant 1994 and 2002 World Cup campaigns.

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