Cristiano Ronaldo has made a living out of scoring goals.
Looking back over his career, it was only when he started scoring for Manchester United that Real Madrid began to sit up and take notice. Ronaldo scored nine and 12 goals in his first two seasons at Old Trafford, and 42 and 26 goals in his final two seasons.
His hat-trick against Atletico Madrid on Saturday was his 39th for Los Blancos, and took his total tally of career goals to 565 goals.
But, if not for a big decision Ronaldo made as a youngster at Sporting Lisbon, we could be talking about Ronaldo the box-to-box midfielder, not the terrific talisman.
Ronaldo’s coach at Sporting’s youth team, Aurelio Pereira, admitted the Portuguese started out as a player who covered every blade of grass.
However, he quickly realised that it was by scoring goals that he could truly impact a game.
"At the start, Cristiano was not a goal scorer, he was a box-to-box player," Aurelio told AS, via ESPN FC. "Aged 11, he used both left and right foot. He defended well, he occupied the whole pitch, he was fast and skilful, even good in the air. He was a complete player.
"[Over time] he has transformed himself with training and in the end became a goal scorer. He changed his own way of playing to become what was valued most."
Less of an artist, more of an athlete
Ronaldo joined Sporting in 1997 before a star performance against Man United six years later earned him a move to England.
He won three Premier League titles, one FA Cup and the Champions League as a Red Devil before Los Blancos signed him for a then-record fee of £80 million in 2009.
In the 13 years since he left Portugal, Aurelio has witnessed Ronaldo become less of artist and more of an athlete.
“As a boy, Cristiano was more of an artist than today," Aurelio, who is still involved with Sporting’s youth setup, added. “Today he is more an athlete, as he has changed, remodelling his body to meet the demands. He has moved from a fantasy footballer into another more physical type of player."
Ronaldo returns to Sporting this evening as Los Blancos take on the Primeira Liga outfit in the Champions League.