Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo accepted substantial undisclosed libel damages today over a claim that he put his injured ankle at risk by “living it up” in a Hollywood nightclub.
The soccer star was not at High Court for the settlement of his action against Telegraph Media Group Ltd over story headlined “Ronaldo back in the limelight” which was published in July 2008.
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The story embarrassed, offended and distressed the player who, as a professional, was concerned both as to his own reputation and how it might be perceived by his then club, Manchester United, manager Sir Alex Ferguson and the fans, his solicitor, Allan Dunlavy, told Mrs Justice Sharp.
The newspaper now accepted the allegations were untrue, apologised, and had agreed to pay Ronaldo substantial damages and his legal costs in full.
The agreed statement settling the case was read out on the day that a five-day trial of the action was to have started, with Ronaldo scheduled to give evidence tomorrow.
Dunlavy said the story appeared alongside a photo of Ronaldo on crutches in Los Angeles, where he had travelled to attend a sports award ceremony to which he had been invited and nominated for Best Male International Athlete.
The newspaper reported that on arrival, Ronaldo “headed straight for” a trendy nightclub where he put his crutches down to take to the dance floor with four models before being served “£10,000 worth of Cristal champagne”.
It alleged that the sight of the footballer “living it up” in LA would dismay Sir Alex.
“In fact, the truth is that these events did not happen and the claimant did not behave unprofessionally,” Mr Dunlavy said.
“The claimant was in Los Angeles, having gone there on holiday in the knowledge and with the advance permission of his club, his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, his surgeon and his physio, and while he did attend the nightclub in question, he did not drink any alcohol at all whilst there, nor at any time whilst in Los Angeles.
“He does not, as a rule, drink alcohol because he takes his health, fitness and recovery from injury very seriously.
“Nor did he put his crutches down to take to the dance floor despite the risk to his injured ankle.
“Instead, he sat in a private corner as arranged in advance, along with friends who had travelled to Los Angeles with him, resting his foot as advised and drinking non-alcoholic energy drinks at all times under the care and supervision of the respected Portuguese national team physio Antonio Gaspar, who had also travelled to Los Angeles at the request of the claimant and with the agreement of Manchester United.”
Dunlavy said that Ronaldo now considered that he had been fully vindicated.
The newspaper’s solicitor, Helen Morris, said it accepted the allegations were false and ought never to have been published.
“It is therefore happy to set the record straight and to apologise to the claimant.”
Ronaldo said in a statement: “I am delighted with this outcome. I take enormous pride in my professionalism. I treat my training and recovery from injury very seriously and would never have drunk and danced in a nightclub without my crutches as the Daily Telegraph falsely claimed.
“I felt I had no choice but to begin and pursue these legal proceedings. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sir Alex Ferguson, Roy Keane and the others who were ready to appear as witnesses at the trial which had been due to start today.”
Sir Alex said in a statement: “The article was entirely false. Cristiano is the consummate professional and he takes his health and fitness very seriously.
“He is one of the best players I have ever worked with. I was ready and willing to appear as a witness and I am delighted that he has resolved this issue successfully.”
A statement issued on behalf of Keane said: “The article was false and misleading in every respect, notably by suggesting that I had criticised Cristiano.
“Cristiano is a great football player and is very professional. I am happy to see the record set straight.”