Ronaldo sells stake in Brazilian club Cruzeiro amid criticism, Spain’s Real Valladolid is next

AP , Tuesday 30 Apr 2024

Two-time World Cup winner Ronaldo Nazário agreed to sell his stake in embattled Brazilian soccer club Cruzeiro on Monday. And he plans to do the same at Spain’s second division club Real Valladolid, which he has controlled since 2018.

Ronaldo Naz rio
File Photo: Former Real Madrid player Ronaldo Naz rio, now president of Valladolid, looks out onto the pitch before a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Valladolid and Real Madrid in Valladolid, Spain, Friday, Dec. 30, 2022. AP

Ronaldo Nazário bought the indebted Cruzeiro’s soccer department in 2021 for about $78 million and is reportedly selling it for almost $117 million.

The Brazil great started his career at the Belo Horizonte-based club, but as an owner he has been accused by supporters of failing to invest as much as promised.

“Maybe some (Cruzeiro fans) have exaggerated a little going against me, but this is irrelevant to me,” Ronaldo Nazário said in a news conference.

“I know most fans are grateful to me and my team for putting Cruzeiro back in the national and international scene. My goal was reached. That was always the idea — to bring Cruzeiro back and, at the right time, give it to the right person.”

He did not provide many details on how he will divest from Valladolid, where he bought a 51% stake six years ago.

“My answer will be a short one; Valladolid is next,” Ronaldo Nazario said. “I will take some time off (after selling both Cruzeiro and Valladolid).”

Fans of the Spanish club have criticized Ronado Nazário’s management for selling their players for high numbers, but failing to return some of that to their team, which was relegated twice since the Brazilian took over.

The new owner of Cruzeiro’s soccer department is Pedro Figueiredo, a billionaire and ardent fan who built one of Brazil’s biggest supermarket chains. He told Monday’s news conference it will take him 10 years to pay the club’s debts.

Ronaldo Nazário bought Cruzeiro’s soccer department in a business operation that Brazilians know as SAF, which creates public limited companies in clubs that are often on the brink of bankruptcy. Such a move separates the profitable soccer departments from the rest of the club, which remains under control of its associates.

Cruzeiro stockpiled trophies over the past two decades but was in Brazil’s second division from 2020-22 amid fears it could disappear due to its huge debt, which amounted to more than 1 billion Brazilian reals ($200 million).

Ronaldo Nazário’s decision to chip in helped the club stay afloat during its worst days.

“Cruzeiro was in intensive care when I came. I halved the debts, the revenue increased five times. I am leaving Cruzeiro in a comfortable hospital bedroom now,” he said.

Six other top-flight clubs have sold their soccer departments in SAF operations in recent years; Cruzeiro archrival Atletico Mineiro; Bahia, which is owned by the Manchester City group; John Textor’s Botafogo; Cuiaba; Fortaleza; and Vasco da Gama.

Cruzeiro’s is Brazil’s first SAF operation to change hands.

Cruzeiro fans showed on Sunday they were excited about Ronaldo Nazário leaving the club. A banner at Mineirao Stadium read “Bye, Ronaldo” during the team’s 3-1 win against Vitória in the Brazilian championship.

Valladolid fans also protested against the Brazilian after their team was relegated in 2023. The Spanish club co-leads the second division with Leganés on 64 points after 37 matches. The top two teams will automatically be promoted to La Liga next season.

For many Cruzeiro supporters, Ronaldo Nazário was identified more with local rival Corinthians, where the striker finished his professional career in 2011.

New owner Figueiredo defended Ronaldo Nazário’s management of the club.

“I apologize on behalf of Cruzeiro fans,” Figueiredo said. “What some did to Ronaldo was not fair. He put his name in the business and he is upset with this situation. I hope tomorrow (the criticism) is not against me.”

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