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Spanish airport set ‘to be renamed Rafa Nadal International’

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ritish tourists flying to Mallorca this summer look set to touch down at Rafa Nadal International Airport.

Thousands of fans of the record-breaking 21-time Grand Slam winner have already backed an online petition calling for the airport to be renamed.

On Thursday, more than 7,000 people had already signed the change.org petition, launched by a Palma-based lawyer specialising in sports arbitration and an architect friend.

And overnight the region’s president Francina Armengol described the initiative as “positive”.

The politician, head of the Balearics Islands Government, added: “Rafa Nadal is a great international ambassador for our islands.

“There’s no question about it and more so in the last few days.”

Mrs Armengol’s comments came hours after the 35-year-old tennis star touched down at the airport following his historic Australian Open triumph and enjoyed an emotional embrace with his wife Xisca.

Two-time Wimbledon winner Rafa has already admitted he would be “delighted” at any name change.

Nadal celebrates after winning the Australian Open on January 31

/ AFP via Getty Images

He said on Wednesday: “If the people that have to decide that they think it’s appropriate for Palma airport who am I to say no? I’d be delighted.”

Madeira’s airport is named after island hero Cristiano Ronaldo, who is continuing to bang in goals at Man United after years as star striker at Real Madrid which is football-loving Rafa’s favourite team.

The 2016 renaming to Madeira International Airport Cristiano Ronaldo was commemorated with the unveiling of a controversial bust of the footballer by local artist Emanuel Santos.

It was mocked around the world after it was unveiled, with critics accusing Santos of drinking too much Madeiran wine before making the bust.

Others likened it to former Irish international Niall Quinn.

Cristiano Ronaldo statue by Emanuel Santos

/ PA Archive/PA Images

It was later replaced by a selfie sculpture by Carlos Garcia, the partner of Georgina Rodriguez’s sister Ivana.

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