Cristiano Ronaldo is a midfielder for Portugal and Manchester United in the English Premier League. He was crowned the World’s Best footballer in 2008 by FIFA, FIFpro (the players), and France Football with their Ballon D’or. His quick feet and trickery on the ball make him one of the most entertaining players to watch – with all manner of stepovers, back-heels and clever flicks an integral part of his game. Whilst Portugal have yet to win big trophies, with Manchester United he has won the Premier League twice, and the 2008 Champions League. Childhood Cristiano Ronaldo was born on 5th February 1985 in Funchal, Madeira – one of Portugal’s islands off the coast of Africa. Cristiano had the typical upbringing on what was a poor island – playing football became one of his only pleasures, and he could always be found with a ball at his feet – even when he was having his dinner!
His games on the streets taught him to be clever with the ball, and he always liked showing his friends a new trick, and using it against them in their marathon three-hour matches. Ronaldo’s skills did not go unnoticed, and at the age of 14, he was invited to the Portugal mainland to play and live in Lisbon.
Ronaldo was desperately homesick, and was teased because he spoke with a different accent. Cristiano continued to stay strong, helped by his family who willed him to keep going in spite of all the difficulties.
Ronaldo blossomed into a great talent – he became the first player to rise from the U16 team to the first-team in just one season – and made his debut in September 2002, aged just 17. His performances as an attacking midfielder for both Sporting Lisbon and Portugal’s U-17 team ensured he was being watched by many of the best clubs in Europe.
Cristiano Ronaldo had come to the attention of Sir Alex Ferguson long before Manchester United played Sporting Lisbon in a pre-season friendly, but legend has it that Sir Alex saw young Ronny for himself for the first time and immediately decided that he had to sign this youngster with immense confidence and skill. The Man United defenders also told Sir Alex to sign him on the plane home from the match!
Ronaldo arrived at Old Trafford in August 2003, just months after Manchester United had lost out on Ronaldinho, and sold David Beckham. Cristiano requested the number 28 shirt (as he had worn this number at Sporting), but Sir Alex insisted he took the number 7 – David Beckham, Eric Cantona and George Best’s old number.
Cristiano burst on to the scene in United first match of the season against Bolton Wanderers. Thrown on as a substitute with half an hour to play, Ronaldo had such pace and control of the ball, as well as the unpredictability that his tricks brought, that Bolton couldn’t get the ball off him! Ronaldo was used sparingly at first, as United won the FA Cup, but struggled in the league.
Since that first season, Cristiano Ronaldo has gone from strength to strength – notching in goal after goal, becoming a favourite of the fans, and helping United to win back-to-back Premier League titles. It was his incredible form in the 07/08 season – scoring 42 goals as a winger is no mean feat – that led to Manchester United becoming Champions of Europe. Ronaldo was both hero and villain in the Final against Chelsea – scoring in normal time and then missing his penalty in the shootout to leave supporters on a knife-edge.
Real Madrid continue to be linked with Ronaldo, with the Spanish club remorselessly telling the Press that they have signed agreements with him that means he’ll play in the Bernabeu next year. Ronaldo insists he is happy at United, and is challenging on all fronts as United go for an unprecedented quadruple!