Cristiano Ronaldo exited the World Cup early, but he still managed to take some attention away from the soccer tournament with the news that he has signed for Juventus on a four-year deal for a transfer fee of 112 million euros ($131 million).
Ronaldo leaves Real Madrid for Italy after a hugely successful nine years in Spain, scoring a club-record 450 goals in 438 games, winning four Champions League titles and taking his World Player of the Year trophy haul to five.
But the 33-year-old Portuguese’s value to a club extends far beyond an average of one goal per match played. Forbes has estimated that his social media postings account for nearly $1 billion in value for sponsors, higher than any other player.
“With over 2 billion interactions from fans on social media, it is estimated that each posting from the Portuguese star is valued at $1.6 million for the sponsors, a number that can only be compared with a few international pop stars and celebrities, and thus a difficult one to replace for Real Madrid now that Cristiano Ronaldo is heading to Juventus,” said Elisavet Manoli, a sports marketing expert at the U.K.’s Loughborough University.
Ronaldo will reportedly be paid 120 million euros by Juventus for the duration of his contract. It is not only being referred to as the “deal of the century” in Italy, but it could have wider implications for summer transfer spending among Europe’s top clubs.
For Juventus is also investing in the brand association that Ronaldo will bring with him, as it looks to raise its own global profile.
“We saw Juventus rebranding themselves a few years ago, while pushing for a new internationally-facing commercial strategy,” Manoli said. “One could argue that this star transfer is nothing but another step in the grand scheme of Italian football to gain, once again, the attention of business and fans worldwide.”
With Ronaldo leaving Real Madrid, new head coach Julen Lopetegui has space for a new “galactico,” or superstar, with several players being linked with a move to the Santiago Bernabeu stadium — even before Ronaldo’s departure.
Top of that list is Brazilian forward Neymar. It was only a year ago that he left the Spanish league himself for a world record transfer fee of 222 million euros, joining Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) from Barcelona.