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Ronaldo leaves Real Madrid to join Juventus

ROME (Agencies): Cristiano Ronaldo is leaving Real Madrid to sign with Juventus, the Spanish club announced on Tuesday.

The reigning Ballon d’Or winner is set to end his nine-year spell at the Bernabeu with a move to Turin following a rift with Madrid president Florentino Perez over a new contract.

“Real Madrid would like to communicate that we have listened to the wish and request expressed by player Cristiano Ronaldo and have agreed to his transfer to Juventus FC,” the Champions League holders said in a statement.

Ronaldo, Real Madrid’s all-time leading goal scorer, will leave the club having won four Champions League titles with them — including three in as many years — and he claimed a host of personal accolades and records from his time in Spain including four of his five Ballon d’Or awards.

He issued a statement through Real Madrid calling his time in the Spanish capital as “the happiest years of my life.”

These years at Real Madrid and in this city of Real Madrid have quite possibly be the happiest years of my life,” he wrote. “I only have feelings of great gratitude to this club, to the fans and to the city. Ican only give thanks to all of them for the love and affection that I have received.”

The 33-year-old will be tasked with bringing European Cup glory back to Serie A champions Juve, who have been runners-up in two of the past four seasons.

Ronaldo’s Madrid contract, which has three years left to run, is worth significantly less than those of his fellow superstars — Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar — despite the Portugal captain helping Madrid extend their record haul of European Cup triumphs to 13.

However, despite Ronaldo’s deal having an official release clause of €1 billion, Madrid were willing to accept an offer worth 10 percent of that sum in order to free up space and capital to replenish their successful but ageing squad under new coach Julen Lopetegui.

A source told ESPN FC’s Gabriele Marcotti earlier on Tuesday that Juventus president Andrea Agnelli had flown to Greece, where Ronaldo is on a postseason break, to finalise the deal. Ronaldo is taking time off following Portugal’s 2018 World Cup campaign in Russia, which ended in the round of 16 with a 2-1 defeat to Uruguay in Sochi, after which he can join coach Massimiliano Allegri and the rest of the Juventus squad for preseason training.

He sparked speculation over his future in Spain when, just moments after the 3-1 Champions League final victory over Liverpool on May 26, he spoke about his time at the club in the past tense, saying: “It has been very nice being at Real Madrid.”

Three days later, a source close to Ronaldo told ESPN FC that all options were on the table regarding his future, before subsequently insisting that he was not considering a move out of Europe.

The lengthy case brought against him by the Spanish tax office — which, according to sources, was settled last month when the former Manchester United player agreed to pay a total of €18.8m — is another reason cited for his desire to leave Spain.

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