Cristiano Ronaldo set to play for Juventus amid rape allegation
Italian club continues to defend its new star player
Cristiano Ronaldo will be available to play for his Italian soccer team on Saturday.
Ronaldo, who is facing a rape allegation in the United States, could play when Juventus faces Udinese in the Italian league, according to coach Massimiliano Allegri. However, he would not definitively say Ronaldo will start.
"Cristiano's doing well. I've known him for three months, but I can say that in his 15 years of his career he has shown great professionalism and seriousness both on and off the field," Allegri said Friday. "In regard to tomorrow, he is ready to return to action."
Kathryn Mayorga filed a lawsuit last week in Nevada saying she was raped by Ronaldo in Las Vegas in 2009. Police have also re-opened an investigation. Ronaldo has denied the accusation.
"It's a delicate moment but he has large shoulders," said Allegri, who did not definitively say Ronaldo would start on Saturday. "I see him calm in training. Ronaldo's professionalism on and off the field is indisputable."
Ronaldo missed Tuesday's Champions League match against Young Boys because he had previously been suspended after getting a red card in an earlier match. However, he did play in the Italian league last weekend shortly after news broke about the allegation against him.
On Thursday, Juventus sent a statement of support and called him a "great champion." But sponsors Nike and video game maker EA Sports have expressed concern about his conduct.
Since the allegation surfaced, Juventus' share price has fallen by nearly 20 per cent.
The club is listed on the stock exchange and its share price, which rose significantly when Ronaldo was signed in July, fell again on Friday by more than 10 per cent.
Besides playing for Juventus, Ronaldo is also the star of Portugal's national soccer team. But he was left off the squad for a pair of matches next week.
"I knew he wouldn't be called up by Portugal," Allegri said. "He reached an agreement with the coach and president of his federation."
The 33-year-old Ronaldo started his career at Sporting Lisbon before moving to Manchester United and Real Madrid. He left Spain after nine years for Juventus, a move that cost the Italian club 112 million euros (then $132 million).
Neither Ronaldo nor Juventus have addressed the allegation by Mayorga that she received a payoff of $375,000 in 2010 after being put under pressure by the player's "fixers" to keep quiet about an incident in a penthouse hotel suite.