Perhaps the greatest of all-time, Cristiano Ronaldo’s achievements are so vast and ridiculous it’s almost impossible to believe.
|Name:||Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro|
|Nickname:||CR7, Cris, The Sultan of the Stepover, Rocket Ronaldo, Terminator, Ronnie|
|Born:||February 5, 1985|
|Height:||1.87 m (6 ft 2 in)|
|Clubs:||Sporting CP, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus|
|Titles:||29 (27x club, 2x international)|
In Cristiano Ronaldo, few would assume him as the son of a gardener and cook. Let alone from the barren island of Madeira, Portugal. The idea still sounds very far-fetched.
But Ronaldo was one of those rare few individuals able to overcome their unprivileged backgrounds. His story has endeared him not just to the Portuguese, but for fans worldwide.
Nowadays, he is a five-time Ballon d’Or winner with many incredible records and over 700 career goals.
Experts have acknowledged him as the greatest scorer for these achievements and his killer instincts.
The only player capable of rivalling him today is Lionel Messi.
The early obstacles
Cristiano Ronaldo’s story began in the neighbourhood of Funchal, Madeira on February 6, 1985.
He was the youngest of four children to Maria Dolores dos Santos Aveiro and Jose Dinis Aveiro.
They named him after former United States president Ronald Reagan.
But Ronaldo’s modest beginning in Madeira was a far cry from the luxury he enjoys in Italy.
His parents had to work hard to cover all the basic needs of their four young children. Jose even had a second job as a kit man for a local club called Andorinha.
Little did Jose know, though, was that job would launch his seven-year-old son’s journey.
The youngster’s exceptional talents developed over time at Nacional later on. It alerted Sporting CP, who signed him as a 12-year-old in 1997 following a gruelling three-day trial.
Joining Sporting, however, meant Ronaldo had to leave home already for Portugal’s mainland.
Many hardships followed during his early days in Lisbon, where children taunted him for his Madeiran accent. It nearly made a homesick Cristiano give up on his dream.
“It was very difficult for him to adapt in Lisbon,” former agent Joao Marques de Freitas told Goal.
“Because Madeirans have a pronunciation which is very different to Lisbon. He had problems at school, they laughed at him and he resisted.”
His school even expelled him for retaliating to an insult by tossing a chair right at a teacher.
With some encouragement from his family, however, a determined Ronaldo carried on.
Not even career-threatening heart condition stopped him growing into a member of Sporting’s first-team at 16.
August 6, 2003, was the day Cristiano Ronaldo’s life changed forever.
The 18-year-old had plenty of suitors by then, but it was against Manchester United where he showcased his potential.
Ronaldo bested some of the world’s most accomplished players that night. There was no stopping him as his pace and dribbling skills tore John O’Shea to shreds in the first half.
“I had never heard of Ronaldo,” said Mikael Silvestre.
“But as soon as he got the ball, he was beating players with ease on the left or the right.
“He was so quick and skilful. We were all shocked. I remember thinking thank God I was playing in the centre and not at full-back.”
After Ronaldo’s role in Sporting’s 3-1 victory, Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t waste a second longer. Thus, the Scot made him the world’s most expensive teenager that night for €19m.
The Portuguese’s sparkling form continued at Old Trafford as the Red Devils’ newest No.7 player. He debuted against Bolton Wanderers on August 16 and got a standing ovation for his display.
Ronaldo later scored his first United goal with a free-kick in a 3-0 win against Portsmouth in November.
But the 2006/07 season was when CR7 truly transitioned into one of the world’s greatest players.
After helping Portugal finish 4th in the 2006 World Cup, Ronaldo returned fitter and better than ever. He cut out the fancy tricks and became more lethal in the final third.
“I know one thing – this change in Ronaldo hadn’t come about by luck. He works bloody hard,” said Wayne Rooney.
“When I watched him train or saw him scoring great goals for fun in pre-season friendlies. I thought he really could become the best player in the world.”
A first of five Champions League titles and Ballon d’Or awards followed in 2008 before Ronaldo departed Old Trafford.
Ronaldo builds his legacy
Cristiano Ronaldo made a world-record €94m transfer to Real Madrid from Manchester United in 2009.
He quickly made his mark and established a decade-long rivalry with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. The pair competed for all major honours and reached new dazzling heights together.
The sky was the limit as Ronaldo elevated himself to legendary status and gained notoriety for his displays.
And when Real Madrid needed him most, the Portuguese always delivered something special. Whether that be an incredible winning-header in a Copa del Rey final or the decisive penalty in a Champions League final, Ronaldo delivered.
Cristiano reinvented his game in Spain and became the formidable goal threat everyone knows today. He dropped into a deeper forward role as his career progressed and changed his training programme.
It enabled him to become leaner and lighter upon entering his thirties in 2015. With less strain on his body, Ronaldo became more alert and quicker in the six-yard box.
“When you play with Ronaldo on your team, you are already 1-0 up,” said Zinedine Zidane.
A club-record 450 goals in 438 games was the end result.
Four more Ballon d’Ors and Champions Leagues followed as Ronaldo rewrote the history books.
Eager for a fresh challenge, the forward joined Juventus in 2018 and quickly adapted. He ended his debut campaign as the first player to win a Premier League, La Liga and Serie A title.
The big challenge now for Ronaldo in 2020 is to end Juventus’ 24-year wait for European glory.
Ending Portugal’s suffering
After the ‘Golden Era’ of Luis Figo and Rui Costa failed to deliver silverware, Portugal lost hope.
There had never been another talent like the legendary ‘Black Panther’ Eusebio until Ronaldo entered the scene.
He grew into a leader that Portugal needed to lead them to European Championship glory in July 2016.
Like at Real Madrid, Ronaldo always delivered when Portugal were on the brink on danger. His outrageous backheel against Hungary, for example, helped spare them of a group-stage exit.
But the skipper’s actions in the final itself are what the Portuguese supporters will always remember.
It was where Cristiano displayed his emotions in one 90-minute game against France. From the anguish to the ecstasy, he laid it all out while encouraging his team from the touchline.
“The title of European Champion with Portugal is the most important prize I have ever won,” Ronaldo told DAZN.
“It was an incredible, unforgettable evening. I cried, I laughed, I suffered, I shouted, I got drunk…”
Now CR7 is hunting a third title with Portugal in Euro 2020 after winning the Nations League last year.
Incredibly, he remains hungry for more glory despite all that he’s already achieved.