Cristiano Ronaldo: Nurtured in Manchester, starred in Madrid and now reigning in Turin

Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aviero was born in Funchal on the island of Madeira, Portugal on the 5 February 1985. He started playing football in 1992 playing for Andorinha, leaving in 1995 for Nacional. In 1997 he signed for Sporting Clube de Portugal. In 2002 he was playing for the clubs B team and was fastly promoted to the first team. It was playing in the first team that Sir Alex Ferguson first saw Ronaldo, signing him a matter of days later. The Portuguese winger famously made John O’Shea need an oxygen tank, according to Rio Ferdinand.

When Ronaldo signed for United for a fee of £12.24 million at the age of 18, he had effectively replaced David Beckham, who left for Real Madrid for a fee of £25 million after a public spat with Ferguson, something which has now been buried by history with the two correcting their differences. Ronaldo donned the famous number seven shirt at the club and despite his showboating antics, he quickly found his feet and set his sights on becoming the best player in the world, rivalled by Lionel Messi.

In his first season at the club, Ronaldo helped win the FA Cup in the 2003/04 season beating Millwall 3-0 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff with Ronaldo scoring the opening goal and Ruud Van Nistelrooy scoring a brace. His second trophy (in his third season) was the Carling Cup in the 2005/06 season, beating Wigan Athletic 4-0, against at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, scoring the final goal. Wayne Rooney scored a brace with Louis Saha scoring the other.

In his fourth season (2006/07 season) at United, won the Premier League title after a three year absence with Arsenal winning one and Chelsea winning two. It was something that United would dominate for the remaining three seasons of Ronaldo’s career at the club. However, in the 2007/08 season, United started off by winning the FA Community Shield, retaining the Premier League title and ending by winning the UEFA Champions League with Ronaldo famously scoring against Chelsea and missing a penalty with United winning in sudden death.

In his final season at United (2008/09), United started by winning the FIFA Club World Cup beating Gamba Osaka 5-3 in the semi-finals before beating LDU Quito 1-0 in the final. It was the first trophy won that season. United also won the League Cup again, beating Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 on penalties. Importantly, Ronaldo won the Ballon d’Or in 2008 becoming the first player since George Best (1968) to win the award. The club also won their 18th league title with their third Premier League title in a row – the second time the club had done this in the history of the Premier League. They also made it to the Champions League final in Rome but were beaten 2-0 by Barcelona.

It was the summer Ronaldo left United with it rumoured to be happening in the summer of 2008 after United won the Champions League for the third time, the second time under Ferguson. At United, Ronaldo made a total of 292 appearances, scoring 118 goals and 69 assists. He obviously went on to become a much better player scoring goals for fun but will be thankful for his time at United, which helped him become the player he is today. Real Madrid spent £80 million on the Portuguese winger who would break records at the Santiago Bernabeu.

At Real Madrid, Ronaldo spent nine seasons at the club, winning two La Liga titles, two Copa del Reys, two Supercopa de España’s and most notably four UEFA Champions League trophies, taking his personal haul to five. He also won the UEFA Super Cup twice and three FIFA Club World Cups, taking his personal haul to four. In terms of personal achievement, Ronaldo won the Ballon d’Or four more times (2013, 2014, 2016, and 2017) winning five of them so far in his career. He made a total of 438 appearances in Madrid, scoring 450 goals and 133 assists becoming the clubs top scorer, topping Raúl by 127 goals.

It could all have been different though as Sir Alex Ferguson had a plan to re-sign Ronaldo for United just two weeks before announcing his retirement as revealed by Patrice Evra as reported by The Mirror in May. There were rumours of Ronaldo returning to Old Trafford almost every transfer window something that might still happen today, as long as the player is still playing. It could have changed the players entire career in the summer of 2013, if Ferguson had not retired. Speaking about the audacious plan, Evra speaking on the UTD Podcast reported by The Mirror, said:

“You know, you talk about the hardest moments [in my United career], I would say maybe this (Fergie’s retirement) is the one.

“Two weeks before that, I remember there was a lot of media saying Ferguson will maybe retire next year, and he said, ‘Patrice, I will never retire. I will be here another 10 years’.

“He then said: ‘My target is I’m 99 per cent sure we will have Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. I just need these two players to win the Champions League again. Ninety-nine per cent.’

“And to be fair, when I speak with Cristiano, I ask him and he said yes to the boss, and was coming to join United. He told me this.”

Ronaldo left Madrid for Juventus in the summer of 2018 with the Italian club paying €100 million for the player with a further €12 million in other fees. In his first season at the Old Lady, Ronaldo helped the club win the Supercoppa Italiana and the Serie A title. In his second season at the club, Juventus retained their Serie A title but were knocked out of the Champions League at the hands of Lyon which saw Maurizio Sarri sacked days later with club legend Andrea Pirlo taking over. So far in Italy, Ronaldo has made 89 appearances, scoring 65 goals and 18 assists. He has two more years remaining on his contract and at 35 he still seems to be playing at the top of his game.

Former United teammate Gary Neville recently spoke to Sky Sports about Ronaldo, which was reported by the official Juventus website in which the former United captain stated that he thought Ronaldo would be seeking to break Pele’s goalscoring record of 1,281 goals in 1,363 matches, So far, Ronaldo has made 850 appearances, scored 638 goals and 223 assists so he has a long way to go with 643 goals needed to match Pele’s record. Ronaldo will be celebrated during his career as he has won multiple league titles in three different countries; England, Spain and Italy, winning all his other honours and showing his skill and class in every step of the way. Neville said:

“Sir Alex Ferguson and Carlos Queiroz, I think it’s important to put Carlos Queiroz in the category with Sir Alex, they were both champions of him, they both believed in him.

“I think that Ronaldo came back from the World Cup that summer it was like everything had changed. His maturity and his decision-making, which was a big thing, his experience, his physical attributes had completely changed overnight.

“He went from someone who, if you look at his early pictures at Manchester United, he was scrawny, really thin, wiry, didn’t look very strong.

“All of a sudden, I think it was after that 2006 World Cup, he came back like a super-middleweight boxer. His body had just completely transformed, he was absolutely incredible.

“From a strength point of view and a plyometric point of view, the ability to leap, the ability to score with his head, the ability to change direction, everything seems to fall into place. It was just a maturity, physically, mentally, everything happened to him.

“It was brilliant to watch, there was a point I remember going into the gym after one training session and speaking to Mike Clegg [United’s strength and conditioning coach] who worked very hard with Cristiano physically in the gym and saying to him, ‘I don’t know what he’s going to do next’.

“You didn’t know where he was going to be defensively, you didn’t know when he was going to release the ball, players in the middle of the box didn’t know when he was going to cross it. It was just erratic.

“But they had great faith in him, Sir Alex Ferguson and Carlos Queiroz, and they believed in him, put him forward in front of players who had greater reputations at the time and he developed into something brilliant.

“His drive was out of this world to become the best in the world. He’s one of the very few players that I’ve played with that would publicly announce that the individual trophies were important to him.

“He just wanted to be the very, very best in the world and it’s so important to him.

“It’s an obsession. Absolute obsession with scoring goals. Applying himself every single day, being the fittest he can possibly be. I think he’s lifted his professionalism every single year and progressed.

“Jamie [Carragher] mentioned before about James Milner wanting to play into his late 30s and 40s. I think he [Ronaldo] has a plan to go on and take over Pele’s record.

“I genuinely believe he wants to go on and beat Pele’s numbers.

“That’s where I think he’s at in his mind, he wants to be the greatest of all time, that is his sole purpose, understanding that along the way if he is the greatest of all time, the teams that he plays for will win trophies and be successful.”

Ronaldo is one of the best footballers of his time, if not the best. His rivalry with Lionel Messi will have been something that contributed to two of the best footballer players in the world play together, in the same league for much of their careers. The two players dominated the Ballon d’Or for ten years from 2008 to 2017 with Luka Modric breaking the monopoly of the two world-class players in 2018. Ronaldo has won five Ballon d’Or’s with Messi winning six. For the first time since 1956, there will be no Ballon d’Or winner in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Because of this Ronaldo will be looking to win his sixth title in 2021.

Written by John Walker

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I support Manchester United, the greatest English football team to have ever existed. Bruno Fernandes is the latest in a long line of players with great ability to play for the club. I idolised Bryan Robson, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and Eric Cantona growing up.