Soccer-Former Brazil striker Ronaldo buys second division Cruzeiro


Brazil's former soccer player and member of the FIFA Local Organizing Committee Ronaldo gestures during an interview with Reuters in Sao Paulo May 23, 2014. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker (BRAZIL - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP)

(Reuters) - Retired Real Madrid and Brazil striker Ronaldo has bought a controlling stake in his former club Cruzeiro, the player and the club said on Saturday.

Ronaldo, who played for Cruzeiro as a teenager in the early 1990s before going on to become one of the most successful centre forwards in footballing history, did the deal with the help of Brazilian investment bank XP.

The transaction, which was done through Ronaldo's Tara Sports company and is still subject to what the bank called "a series of conditions," sees the 45-year-old invest 400 million reais ($70 million) in the Belo Horizonte club, which has spent two years in Brazil’s second division.

"I am so happy to have concluded this operation," Ronaldo said in a video posted by the Cruzeiro president, adding, while holding one of the club's blue shirts, that he wants to "give back to Cruzeiro and take them where they deserve to be."

"We have a lot of hard to work to do. There's nothing to celebrate yet but we bring a lot of hard work and the ambition to make Cruzeiro great again."

It is the second foray into management for the former PSV Eindhoven, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Barcelona and Corinthians striker. Ronaldo bought a 51% stake in Spanish club Real Valladolid in 2018.

Neither he nor Cruzeiro provided any significant details but XP said in a statement "it seeks to help the Brazilian football industry with professionalisation, capitalization and opening new opportunities."

Ronaldo posted a blue heart and a fox - the Cruzeiro mascot - on Twitter, and a club spokesperson confirmed the deal.

Cruzeiro also told the fans they were "phenomenal", in a reference to Ronaldo’s nickname as a player, "Ronaldo Fenomeno".

The deal comes a few months after the Brazilian Congress sanctioned a law allowing football clubs, historically fan-owned and closed off to outside investors, to become businesses.

"This is the first bit of business in a relevant new front for the investment banking market in Brazil, the country of football," said Jose Berenguer, CEO of Banco XP.

"I have no doubt this is transformational in the history of Brazilian sport. We will have clubs that are stronger, with the capacity for global investment. Brazilian football will never be the same again."

($1 = 5.6959 reais)

(Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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