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Revealed: Ronaldo's plan to turn Valladolid into 'the talk of Europe'

13:00 GMT+4 03/11/2018
Ronaldo Villarreal
The Brazilian stunned the football world by taking over Valladolid but, as Goal outlines in a special report, he has big plans for the small Liga club

Everyone in football read the reports that striking icon Ronaldo was on the verge of buying Real Valladolid at the start of the season but few people actually believed them.

Even when the takeover was completed, many assumed that the Brazilian had merely lended his name to the project; that he was nothing more than a figurehead and would be rarely seen at the Jose Zorilla.

But, on September 3, when it was formally announced that Ronaldo had become the club's majority stakeholder, the World Cup winner attempted to silence the skeptics by declaring, "I do not buy a club and go on vacation the following day."

It wasn't just a slick soundbite. It was a promise, and Ronaldo has proven a man of his word.

Ahead of this weekend's trip to the Santiago Bernabeu, Ronaldo is a man fully immersed in his new project.

Returning to the Santiago Bernabeu essentially means Ronaldo revisiting his past, while at the same time embracing the present – and looking forward to the future.

Indeed, Valladolid has become his life. He is as driven to succeed as an owner as he was as a player.

He was a minority shareholder in Fort Lauderdale Strikers but now it is he who is calling the shots. 

This is a project that both motivates and excites him; an opportunity to put into practice everything that he learned studying business management for three years in London.

He knows what he wants and how to do it. He has a plan and he believes in it, as underlined by the fact that the full €28 million he paid for his 51 per cent share in Valladolid came out of his own pocket.

Despite his numerous other interests, he is determined to be a hands-on owner. He tries to attend every single game and is in Valladolid at least twice a month. When he is not there, he is at what is effectively Valladolid's Madrid 'consulate', set up next to the Puerta de Alcala in the very centre of the city to ensure that Ronaldo can always remain as close as possible to the club. 

The 'consulate', though, is also part of Valladolid's strategic plan to bring the club closer to the rest of the world, the first example of an aim to broaden its horizons.

As Goal has learned, "We want a universal Valladolid" has become the club's new mantra.

However, while Ronaldo may be a former Galactico, he does not intend to spend wildly and freely. His goal is a well-run club, founded upon the twin principles of prudence and common sense.

To contextualise it, Ronaldo’s mind is more similar to Villarreal than PSG.

Ronaldo's mature and measured response may surprise some, given this was a superstar renowned for an opulent lifestyle during his playing days. He even recently told Spanish TV programme El Hormiguero: "People don't know how good my parties were!" 

There have been no fireworks or fanfares at Valladolid, though. Ronaldo has entered the world of business and he wants people to know he means business. He is starting from zero at Valladolid but is confident that he can implement a solid financial structure that will not only secure the club's future for years to come, but also allow it to grow.

Competitiveness, transparency, social and revolution: these are the four tenets of Ronaldo's business plan.

He knows that the team must remain competitive if it is to survive in La Liga but he will not be pursuing stellar signings in order to do so. Ronaldo also wants to guard against overspending, so as to ensure that any potential relegation would not mean certain bankruptcy.

Transparency, for Ronaldo, means being open and honest with everyone associated with the club, discussing all relevant issues face to face, as he has already done. 

Social means creating a club of and for the community, as evidenced by its willingness to get involved in charity work, particularly in relation to raising money for children's causes along the Valladolid Foundation, something that Ronaldo has always been particularly passionate about.

As for revolution, Ronaldo is not putting a limit on Valladolid's potential in the long-term. "We expect to have the whole country talking about us soon, and why not the whole of Europe?" Certainly, his name alone will attract people to Valladolid; in fact, it already is. 

Recent tourist studies have shown that since Ronaldo's takeover, the interest in visiting the city has gone from 2-3 per cent to 32% in China and the United States, and risen to 45% in India. The other Ronaldo effect, essentially.

Obviously, the long-term effects of Ronaldo's arrival are impossible to determine but the early signs are encouraging. He has only been at the helm since the start of September but he has already reduced Valladolid's treasury debts from €19m to €3m. 

Having closely studied the club's inner workings for the past two months, he also hopes to have a minor restructuring plan ready by the turn of the year.  

One of the key objectives on that front will be strengthening the youth academy, with Ronaldo adamant that homegrown talent is the basis of both survival and growth in the modern game.

Consequently, Valladolid must have top-class facilities – and they are presently lacking in that regard. The cantera facilities are unique in that they are literally located next to the stadium, but there are only three pitches and everything is owned by the local city council.

Ronaldo, thus, plans to build residences, improve the stadia and expand the entire campus.

As for the first team, even if Ronaldo does not intend to make big-money signings, it will obviously be easier to attract players to a club now owned by arguably the greatest No.9 of all time. 

However, despite his history in the game, he doesn't intend to get involved in team affairs, which is probably no bad thing. As they joke in Valladolid, "How could we convince Ronaldo that this striker or that striker is good for the team, when he's one of the greatest goalscorers in history?!"

Besides, as it is, there are unlikely to be any new arrivals in the immediate future, given Valladolid have the lowest wage bill (€23m) in La Liga. 

Selling the highly-rated defender Caldero would raise funds but Valladolid do not want let him go right now, particularly with the club having made a strong start to the season, amassing 16 points already to sit sixth in the Liga standings.

Besides, selling a key player in January would be at odds with Ronaldo's strategy of stability and solidity, and undermine the reputation for sensibility that he has already established in Valladolid.

As a result, Ronaldo will return to the Bernabeu on Saturday afternoon respected and revered by both sets of supporters. 

It will be his first away game as Valladolid owner and it is somewhat fitting that he will be going up against Florentino Perez, one of the presidents that had the biggest impact on his playing career.

Indeed, as Goal learned, playing under the Real Madrid supremo "shaped" the Brazilian's thoughts on leadership and management, both in a positive and negative sense.

Now he returns to face Perez on an equal footing, or perhaps from over his shoulder, with Valladolid currently three places and two points above Madrid in the table.

The hosts will be expecting a tough game because Valladolid and Ronaldo will be at the Bernabeu on business – not on a vacation.