MALAGA, Spain — Cristiano Ronaldo's return to action after nearly two months of injury woes comes at the perfect time for Real Madrid, who host arch-rivals Barcelona in one of most anticipated matches of the season Sunday.
But a Malaga sorcerer, known only as Pepe, says the Portuguese winger's comeback could be short-lived.
Malaga-born Pepe said he was introduced into the occult by a Mexican sorcerer over three decades ago. He now claims he was paid 30,000 euros (45,000 dollars) by a "famous" former girlfriend of Ronaldo to put an injury curse on the player.
"The best is yet to come," the 57-year-old told AFP at his office in the Mediterranean port which is packed with burning candles and incense as well as statues depicting the devil.
"I have given myself four months to end his career and I have said everywhere that once Cristiano started playing again he would play just one to three matches before being injured again."
Pepe, who says he has been paid in the past to put curses on other footballers like England's David Beckham and Argentina's Lionel Messi, would not reveal the identity of his client, saying only that he was contacted by her representatives who got his telephone number from another Real player.
Several media outlets have reported that US heiress Paris Hilton is behind the voodoo curse on the 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year.
The two were spotted together in Los Angeles in June just before the 24-year-old completed his 94-million-euro move to Real from Manchester United that made him the most expensive player in the world.
Ronaldo made his return for Real on Wednesday when he came on as a second-half substitute during the 1-0 Champions League win over FC Zurich, later saying he felt fine.
It was his first time playing for Real since he injured his right ankle during the club's 3-0 win at home over Marseille on September 30 after being tackled by the French side's Senegalese defender Souleymane Diawara.
In that match Ronaldo contributed two of the goals. He aggravated the injury during Portugal's 3-0 victory over Hungary on October 10 when he limped off the pitch after just 27 minutes.
Just four days before Real's match against Marseille, Pepe sent a fax to Real's offices in the Spanish capital warning that a spell had been placed on the player.
Pure coincidence? Pepe, who likes to display the scars on his stomach which he says he got in voodoo rituals, is convinced that it was due to his spell.
His next weapon against Ronaldo is almost ready -- a black voodoo doll representing the player which is dressed in a white jersey and shorts which resemble Real's strip.
He said he is just waiting for Ronaldo to regain his form before he starts to riddle the doll with needles and nails.
His next target? "Ronaldo's right knee," he said.
The player has not commented in public about the spell which Pepe says he has cast on him although his mother, Dolores Aveiro, has hired a Portuguese sorcerer to use "white" magic against Pepe's "black" magic.