TURIN, Italy — The heat is rising in Turin, but the summer sun isn’t the only thing getting locals hot under the collar. Cristiano Ronaldo fever is sweeping the city, causing mass hysteria among Juventus fans. When Genoa defender and Ronaldo lookalike Armando Izzo touched down in the Piedmont capital to sign for rivals Torino on Thursday, some really thought it was CR7 himself. The chaos was a perfect illustration of how on edge a fan-base is in anticipation of what Tuttosport is calling “the signing of the century.”
Pop into one of the city’s bars and it’s all people are talking about. Rumours are flying around. There have been erroneous sightings of Ronaldo as if he were some mythical creature. Supporters have descended on the local airport acting on false information of Ronaldo’s imminent arrival. They’ve flocked to the Castello di Montaldo, in the hills overlooking Turin, after hearing whispers of a meeting with Juventus on the castle grounds.
News that the estate agent looking after Zinedine Zidane and Fabio Cannavaro’s old villa, which U2 baulked at renting in 2006 when quoted €280,000 for just six nights, has a viewing scheduled for this Saturday is hardly calming the overheated imaginations of those for whom Juventus is a way of life.
The black and white side of a city whose people are renowned for their measured and rational outlook on life is losing its head. Ever since Tuttosport and the Turin edition of Il Corriere della Sera reported last Friday that Juventus were readying an offer for Ronaldo at the encouragement of his agent Jorge Mendes, belief in the Old Lady making the impossible possible has grown as reflected in the club’s share price. Stock in Juventus is flying and season ticket sales, which were expected to be slow after a 30 percent price hike, are progressing well.
Local businesses are looking to capitalize, too. The Bottega del Goloso has launched a Ronaldo-inspired dessert so fans can savour this sweet moment and cool down a bit, too. This particular dolce is an ice cream sundae with bars of chocolate, specially moulded in the shape of his initials, plunged into the generous scoops of gelato nestled therein.
One suspects Ronaldo himself would pass on it or at least limit himself to a forkful of the fruit assembled on the plate holding the sundae. As “Ronaldo mania” spreads, it’s surely only a matter of time before one of Turin’s master chocolatiers turns their hand to a gianduja in the shape of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Tonight, Juventus fans will go to bed with a feeling most people associate with Christmas Eve. Tomorrow is the seventh day of the seventh month: D-Day for CR7. It’s an omen they hope is true even amid the uncertainty of whether it will happen at all. For now though, a fan-base waits to see the outcome of a game, which as far as they’re concerned, is bigger than anything the World Cup in Russia has to offer.
James covers the Italian Serie A and European football for ESPN FC Follow him on Twitter @JamesHorncastle.