Several thousand fans gave new Real Madrid signing Raul Albiol a hearty welcome as the Spanish powerhouse presented its lowest-profile signing of the new "galactico'' era.
|Real Madrid's Raul Albiol shows off his new jersey [AFP]
The Spain international, who signed a five-year contract last month after being acquired from Valencia for $21 million, looked overwhelmed by the welcome at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, two days after 50,000 fans greeted Kaka.
"I don't have to say that I'm very happy to be here. It comes with great pride to be welcomed like that,'' a grinning Albiol said. "I'll give my maximum. I'll give all I can so the team can win titles.''
Younger fans packed the north stand after Madrid offered a free tour of the stadium's museum to children under 14 years to attract more spectators to the presentation.
Madrid has spent $300 million on players this summer.
New galactico era
President Florentino Perez has also signed AC Milan's Kaka, Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo and Lyon striker Karim Benzema as part of his remodeling plans along the "galactico'' model he created during his first tenure from 2000-06.
"Sharing the locker room with two world renown players is an honor,'' Albiol said.
"And all the other players, too. I'm very motivated and excited for the season to start.''
The 80,000-capacity stadium is expected to be full for Ronaldo's presentation on Monday.
The 23-year-old Albiol arrives after five seasons at Valencia, where he scored seven goals in 173 appearances.
Albiol, who also spent a season at Getafe, was a regular in helping Valencia win the 2008 Copa del Rey.
Albiol was also a member of Spain's European Championship-winning team last summer and had just returned from the Confederations Cup in South Africa.
"It's a responsibility that I'm right to assume,'' Albiol said of being a Spanish presence on a team filled with international stars.
Albiol is the first major Spanish signing by Perez, who has vowed to restore Madrid as the world's most important club following a season marred by off-field problems, with his predecessor Ramon Calderon eventually resigning over a vote-rigging scandal.
"We are building a team that can continue realizing all of your dreams,'' Perez told the crowd in between chants of "Florentino.''
Madrid also re-signed Spanish striker Alvaro Negredo from Almeria for $7 million, but he is expected to be sold on.
Valdano defends spending
Meanwhile, Real Madrid director general Jorge Valdano has defended the club's summer spending spree, saying it was necessary to retain its place as the world's biggest club.
Madrid has spent $300 million on five players, taking on bank loans to fund the $92 million purchase of AC Milan's Kaka and $131 million deal for Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo.
Valdano said, "You only notice it because we are buying players of the highest caliber.''
He spoke on Thursday, following the presentation of Albiol.
President Florentino Perez has vowed to return the "galactico'' era to Madrid after initiating the first one from 2000-06 with the blockbuster signings of Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham and Ronaldo.