If there is one person from football fraternity I would like to idolise, it would be, the man who has truly come from rags to riches, poor to popular, ordinary to elite, the man, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo, aged 7, started his journey playing for amateur team Andorinha from 1992 to 1995, followed by a two years spell at Nacional. Aged 12, he succeeded to break into Sporting CP after a three-day long trial. Ronaldo was only 17 when he crossed all the barriers to make it to the first team. But for a man of his abilities and work ethics, age was merely a number.
In 2003, in a preseason friendly fixture, Sporting CP played Manchester United which later turned out to be a life changing event for the teenager. What defines him are moments like these. He knew how and when to bring the best out of him, and playing an elite team like Manchester United, with world watching him, had to be one of those moments. Basically, the stage was set for this boy! And guess what? The boy made the stage his own with a jaw dropping performance, and it didn’t take long for Sir Alex and his men to see it. ( click here to watch the video )
Of course, how could the boy go unnoticed when he was oozing with confidence and class. That performance didn’t just earn him a move to Manchester United, the transfer fee of £12.24 million made him the then most expensive teenager in English football.
Adapting to an entirely different place, culture, teammates, language would have been a big ask for most teenagers. But not for Cristiano Ronaldo!
He was given the responsibility of wearing the prestigious number 7 shirt, which was previously worn by players such as George Best, Eric Cantona, David Beckham. All this hype and expectation could have easily retrogressed any teenager’s career. But for Ronaldo, it was extra source of motivation. At a very young age, he achieved from becoming one of the best players in the team to becoming one of the best players in the world. But what impresses me the most is that he is hardworking in every sense. Moving to Manchester from Lisbon, adapting to the culture, climate, food, etc. learning the language, and having so much already on the platter, having to play football under enormous expectations and scrutiny didn’t stop the boy from becoming the player he is, today.
I definitely don’t want to mention the long list of accolades that he and his team have won in his long career, so far. He achieved everything a footballer would have dreamt of in his six years spell at Manchester United. From being an exciting youngster to a catalyst to the team for achieving all the major trophies, to winning Ballon d’Or, he did it all at 23.
Major trophies and achievements for Manchester United(2003-09):
FIFA Ballon d’Or/Ballon d’Or: 2008
Premier League: 2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09
FA Cup: 2003–04
Football League Cup: 2005–06, 2008–09
FA Community Shield: 2007
UEFA Champions League: 2007–08
FIFA Club World Cup: 2008
FIFA World Player of the Year: 2008
FIFPro World Player of the Year: 2008
After achieving everything possible as a footballer, he could have easily lost his determination or hunger to be better, to train harder, to improve his game. He could have just ended his career right there, and still gone down as a great footballer. But as I said earlier, he is a hardworking player in every sense. It is his work ethic that makes him the player he is today.
In 2009, he moved to Real Madrid for a record transfer fee, at the time, of £80 million.
Guess what!?(no prizes for guessing here) He achieved everything he did at Manchester United with Real Madrid, again, except that he achieved it all multiple times. He didn’t only become the fan favourite and their best player, he also became a more prolific scorer. In his 9 years at Real Madrid, he was highly influential in bringing Real Madrid, their glory days back and regaining their success, in Spain and Europe. The list of accolades he achieved here only got longer.
Major trophies and achievements for Real Madrid(2009-18):
La Liga: 2011–12, 2016–17
Copa del Rey: 2010–11, 2013–14
Supercopa de España: 2012, 2017
UEFA Champions League: 2013–14, 2015–16, 2016–17, 2017–18
UEFA Super Cup: 2014, 2017
FIFA Club World Cup: 2014, 2016, 2017
FIFA Ballon d’Or/Ballon d’Or: 2008, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017
The Best FIFA Men’s Player: 2016, 2017
He is arguably, the best footballer in the history of Portuguese football. He succeeded in achieving Portugal’s lifelong dream of winning a major international trophy, when he led his team to glory, in UEFA Euro 2016.
As Cristiano Ronaldo rightly said, “Talent without working hard is nothing”… well, he didn’t just say it. He showed it.
Even at the age of 33, he earnt himself a move to a top class team like Juventus for a four year contract for a transfer fee of €100 million.
I remember him saying, “I am living a dream I never want to wake up from”. Well, his career is not over, by any means. And he has definitely not woken up. Not yet! It has been an absolute privilege watching him play all these years, and I hope he never wakes up. I hope he continues to inspire us and help us believe in ourselves. Never wake up, Cris.