In a surprising turn of events, Brazilian football legend Ronaldo Nazário has sold his stake in Cruzeiro Esporte Clube, a club where he began his professional career. This decision follows criticism surrounding his ownership and financial management of the team. Ronaldo also hinted at relinquishing control of his other club, Real Valladolid of Spain’s second division.

While acquiring Cruzeiro’s football department in 2021 for roughly $78 million, Ronaldo reportedly sold it for nearly $117 million. Despite this financial gain, some Cruzeiro fans felt he fell short of promised investments, leading to tensions.

“There might be some exaggeration in the criticism I’ve faced,” Ronaldo acknowledged, “but it’s irrelevant. Most fans appreciate what my team and I did to bring Cruzeiro back into the national and international spotlight. My goal was achieved: to revive Cruzeiro and, at the right moment, pass it on to the right person.”

He offered limited details about his plans for Real Valladolid, acquired in 2018, simply stating, “Valladolid is next. I’ll take some time off after finalizing both divestments.”

Ronaldo’s ownership of Valladolid has also faced criticism, particularly regarding player sales that generated significant income without substantial reinvestment in the team, which suffered relegation twice during his tenure.

Taking over Cruzeiro’s football department involved a business model known as SAF (Sociedade Anônima do Futebol), a strategy adopted by several Brazilian clubs facing financial peril. This approach separates the profitable football operations from the rest of the club, allowing the latter to function more independently.

While Cruzeiro enjoyed trophy success in the past two decades, it plummeted to Brazil’s second division between 2020 and 2022, burdened by massive debts exceeding $200 million. Ronaldo’s involvement undoubtedly helped stabilize the club during its most challenging times.

“Cruzeiro was on the brink when I arrived,” he remarked. “We halved the debts, and revenue increased fivefold. I’m leaving Cruzeiro in a significantly better position.”

Cruzeiro’s new owner, billionaire and ardent fan Pedro Figueiredo, acknowledged it will take a decade to fully settle the club’s debts. He also expressed regret over the fan criticism Ronaldo endured.

“On behalf of Cruzeiro fans, I apologize,” Figueiredo stated. “Some behaved unfairly towards Ronaldo, who invested significantly and is understandably upset by this situation. I hope the criticism doesn’t turn towards me tomorrow.”

This move marks a significant shift for Ronaldo’s involvement in club ownership, leaving both Cruzeiro and potentially Real Valladolid in the hands of new leadership.

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