The rise and rise of Cristiano Ronaldo - and there's more to come

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Football News

To Celebrate the launch of Nike's 'The Switch' which stars Cristiano Ronaldo, GiveMeSport takes a look at his journey to greatness.

'Man United sign Ronaldo'. That was the headline several newspapers ran with in August 2003. They were slammed for being misleading - it wasn't 'the Ronaldo'.

Back then, Cristiano Ronaldo, the relatively unknown Portuguese 18-year-old they were referring to, was nothing but a player with potential.

In appearance, he was skinny and spotty and he had a very slender grasp of English, which made him difficult to interview. With all that in mind, it was difficult to know much about the man United had just signed from Sporting Lisbon.

He had scored just three times for the Primeira Liga side, so Sir Alex Ferguson was placing tremendous faith in him by offering Sporting £12 million to bring him to Manchester. At that time, £12 million was a record for a player of that age.

Not only was he young, it had been hit and miss whether he was physically strong enough to be a footballer at all.

As quoted in The Mirror, last year he recalled: "When I was 12 years old most of the people told me 'Cristiano you are a very talented player but you are too skinny'."

Instead of being disheartened, he used his critics as motivation, putting in extra hours in the gym. His physical transformation over the years has been nothing short of extraordinary.

But it was the same with his early life in general as he grew up in Madeira, living in a shack with a roof made of tin.

Oddly, despite his countless achievements on the field, one of the best-known anecdotes about Ronaldo is that he was once suspended from school for throwing a chair at a teacher who mocked his working class background.

In 2007, Jose Mourinho tried the same thing, belittling his upbringing.

This time, there was no need for Ronaldo to throw chairs. By then, he was already a millionaire. In 2016, he was named by Forbes as the world's richest footballer, ahead of Lionel Messi.

The path to greatness was a long one, but the final stretch was remarkably quick.

Ronaldo's impact at United was sensational. Spurred on by Ferguson giving him the no. 7 shirt - previously worn by George Best, Eric Cantona, and David Beckham - he ended his first season at the club by scoring the opening goal in the FA Cup final against Millwall.

Within two years, though, he suffered his first major setback. It was 2006 and for the first time, the boy wonder stepped out onto the pitch as a hate figure, not a hero.

Weeks earlier, he had been involved in Wayne Rooney's sending-off as Portugal knocked England out of the World Cup. It was going to take something remarkable for him to turn his image around, with some suggesting United's English contingent wouldn't want to play alongside him again.


The only way out of the situation was goals. To be specific, 84 goals, which was the total he scored at United. He was the spark that fired them to three Premier League titles, an FA Cup, two League Cups and one Champions League.

Some of his goals were remarkable. His free-kicks against Portsmouth and Arsenal spring to mind.

All was forgiven. His next challenge was to win the same affection at his dream club, Real Madrid. Unsurprisingly, his move broke the world transfer record. Money well spent, it seems.

Even with Ronaldo in place, Madrid have struggled to topple Barcelona in La Liga, winning it just once since the superstar's arrival.


In Europe, though, Ronaldo and Madrid reign supreme, winning the Champions League for the 10th and 11th times in the last three years. It was fitting that he scored the final penalty in this year's final shootout against Atletico Madrid.

He is the heart of Los Blancos, the ultimate Galactico, stealing the limelight in a side that contains James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale, and Karim Benzema.

The scariest part? At 31, he shows no sign of letting up, reaching another half century of goals last season. And his pace, power, and fitness suggest that he could do it in any league in the world.

Ronaldo's beginnings may have been humble, but what has followed has been far from it.

But all of that has played a part in him becoming quite possibly the most gifted, mesmerising footballer of a generation.

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Gareth Bale
La Liga
Real Madrid
Cristiano Ronaldo
Iker Casillas
Manchester United

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