85,000 Welcome ‘CR9′ to Madrid

Juan Medina/Reuters Cristiano Ronaldo, who will wear No. 9 for Real Madrid, has been dubbed “CR9″ by fans and the Spanish media.

Some 80,000 fans showed up Monday to see Florentino Pérez’s vision for Real Madrid come one step closer to fruition. That’s approximately how many people filled the Santiago Bernabeu stadium for Cristiano Ronaldo’s introduction as the team’s new No. 9.

The former Manchester United wing passed his team physical this morning and told fans this evening his boyhood dream of playing for Los Blancos is now a reality.

“I didn’t expect a jam-packed stadium,” Ronaldo said, according to Goal.com’s transcription of the event. “This is truly impressive!

The club’s head of medical services, Carlos Diez, said Ronaldo “is in perfect condition and very eager to start the season as soon as possible.”

“He has an extraordinary cardiac and lung capacity,” said Diez. “Now we will be able to start working using an individual plan in order to improve his performance.”

When Ronaldo pulls on the Real Madrid jersey, he’ll wear the coveted No. 9 shirt worn by Real Madrid great Alfredo di Stefano. The Portuguese star has a history of living up to the number on the back of his shirt. At Manchester United, he inherited the No. 7 shirt from David Beckham, which was also worn by United greats Eric Cantona and George Best. Wearing that shirt, Ronaldo scored 118 goals in 292 appearances since 2003, a commendable achievement in one of the world’s top leagues.

But the player made a bit of a stir (a ripple, really, compared to his record-setting $131 million transfer fee) when he said that the Prem won’t be the competition it once was with him gone.

“I think La Liga is going to have more quality because of the players that are arriving,” Ronaldo said, presumably counting himself and new teammates Kaka and Karim Benzema. “All the players have a lot of quality and the referees protect the players.”

“The Premier League is a very good competition,” added Ronaldo, “but I think that the Spanish league is going to have a little more quality because of the players that are arriving. Both leagues are going to be very good but I think that with Florentino Pérez’s signings, the Spanish league is superior to the English.”