TOKYO, Japan, Dec 9 – Cristiano Ronaldo will have little time for “cyber clones” or facial keepy-uppy when the Real Madrid superstar arrives in Japan next week for the Club World Cup.
The Portuguese pin-up met a life-size silicon Ronaldo complete with ripped abs, greased-back hair and twitching eyebrows on a commercial visit last year.
The world’s highest-paid athlete has also appeared in a Japanese commercial to promote a bizarre face-stretching gadget designed to enhance the user’s smile.
But Ronaldo, who rakes in nearly $90 million in salary and endorsements yearly according to Forbes, insisted he would be in Japan on a different kind of business as European champs Real chase a second Club World Cup in three years.
“It is a big tournament and I have been lucky enough to win it twice before,” he told Japan’s Nippon TV, referring to the 2014 tournament and his first personal triumph with previous club Manchester United in 2008.
“Of course I want to win it for a third time,” added the 31-year-old. “We are not going to Japan for a holiday. We go there with the sole aim of winning the title and to be crowned the best team in the world.”
Ronaldo, who touches down in Japan on Monday, has legions of female fans who swoon over his chiselled looks and muscular physique, which he regularly flaunts by removing his shirt to celebrate goals.
There is similar reaction when Ronaldo is wheeled out for Japanese television on his money-making trips as studio guests giddily poke and prod his stomach.
– Cyber clone –
Japanese scientists unveiled a cyber clone of the player last year to promote an electric muscle stimulator for sculpting a washboard stomach, a device being advertised again during commercial breaks at this year’s Club World Cup.
Ronaldo, tipped to win his third Ballon d’Or trophy on Monday, gave the doppelganger the thumbs-up but drew the line at modelling the propeller-like face stretcher, which requires the user to nod excitedly while biting on a ball in the middle.
Zinedine Zidane’s table-topping Real face either Mexico’s Club America or South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the competition’s second semi-final in Yokohama next Thursday.
Barring an major upsets, the Spanish giants will face Libertadores Cup holders Atletico Nacional in the competition final on December 18.
The Colombians will have the hopes of a grieving continent on their shoulders after Copa Sudamericana final opponents Chapecoense were all but wiped out in a plane crash on November 29 that claimed the lives of 71 people.
Real will be without Gareth Bale as the Welshman recovers from ankle surgery, but have been boosted by the return of Toni Kroos after a metatarsal fracture.
“Lifting the title for a third time would be special for me,” said Kroos, who won the 2013 Club World Cup with Bayern Munich.
“It’s a long trip and it won’t be easy to acclimatise,” he added. “We have a lot of matches at this time of year and it will be tough but it’s a tournament that we take very seriously.”