Cristiano Ronaldo is deemed the greatest player in the world by many, although others share different opinions, but the undeniable truth is that the five-time Ballon D’Or winning superstar is one of the most dedicated, driven and determined athletes of all time.
Ronaldo is an inspiration in modern football, because hidden behind his egotistical personality is a man encaptivated or even obsessed with winning. To Cristiano, losing is unacceptable and he’s maintained the drive to reach the highest level by making sacrifices from an early age, remaining disciplined throughout his career, and having an extreme amount of self-belief to enable him to compete individually with FC Barcelona forward Lionel Messi.
The Portugal international has experienced severe amounts of pressure, criticism and scrutiny during his career, but whilst others would crumble under the spotlight, Ronaldo has ensured that he provides a show-stopping response to his critics.
Cristiano has built an immortal legacy which will live for generations long into the future. Only the likes of Pele, Cruyff, Maradona, Eusebio, Di Stefano and Messi are spoken of in the same tone. CR7 fits into this category of exceptional historic talents due to his tenacity and relentlessness to continue delivering consistently.
We’ve witnessed countless footballers enjoy successful phases of their career, but the animal in Cristiano ensures that he retains his position at the top. He’s unfazed by adversity and challenge, because he’s set such high standards that criticism and scrutiny is never far away.
Cristiano made the biggest sacrifice that any young child could make by packing his bags at the age of 11-years-old to move from his hometown in Madeira to the Portuguese capital of Lisbon. Ronaldo was born in Sao Pedro and grew up in a catholic and impoverished tin-roofed home, which he shared with his parents and three siblings.
He was introduced to football by his father, who worked as a part-time kit man for Andorinha, an amateur club that Ronaldo later joined in 1992. In 1997, Ronaldo travelled to Lisbon, after spending two years at Nacional, for a three-day trial at Sporting CP, and subsequently signed for the club for a fee of £1,500.
I always say it was the toughest time of my life when I left my family at 11-years-old to live in a different world in Lisbon. It may be in the same country, but it looks like it’s a different part of the world. I would cry almost everyday as I missed my family but I don’t regret it, as it was the most intense moments in my life that I’ve lived through, but without sacrifice you can’t win nothing. Cristiano Ronaldo
Reading the quote above from Cristiano discussing the biggest sacrifice in his life is tear-jerking to say the least. Imagine placing yourself in his shoes at 11-years-old and having to leave your family behind to follow your dreams. He remained focused on his goal and retained his aspirations despite having to adapt to different surroundings and the heartache of being hundreds of miles away from his loved ones.
Ronaldo continued to make sacrifices to engineer a future in professional football by agreeing with his mother to end his studies at the age of 14. He had the self-belief and was convinced that he was capable of playing football at a prestigious level, which is why such sacrifices were required to form the pathway to success.
Further obstacles and hurdles were placed in his path during his childhood when he was diagnosed with a “racing heart” condition. The condition could’ve forced him to give up football, but instead he underwent an operation and continued training just days later. This shows his level of resilience and his diehard attitude, but he would have to mature significantly more to survive the harsh storms ahead in his career as a professional footballer.
He graduated to the senior team at a rapid pace, by becoming the first ever player to play for Sporting CP’s under-16, under-17 and under-18 teams, the B team and the senior team all within one season. In October 2002, Cristiano made his senior debut, scoring twice in a 3-0 win over Moreirense in the Primeira Liga.
His performances during his debut season received global notoriety with the likes of FC Barcelona, Liverpool and Arsenal showing an interest in the Portuguese adolescent. Ronaldo showcased his talent once again during a pre-season friendly against Manchester United, which urged Sir Alex Ferguson to make him the most expensive teenager in English football history for a transfer fee of £12.4 million.
Ferguson described him as the “one of the most exciting young players” he’d ever seen, but Ronaldo was now tasked with fulfilling his potential in a vastly different footballing culture. It would prove another tough chapter for Cristiano, which moves me onto the next section of this report, in which I’ll illustrate the resilience that was required to silence his critics in England…
Cristiano Ronaldo exploded onto the scene in tremendous fashion by delivering an exhilarating, unpredictable and promising performance from the bench on his competitive debut. Bolton Wanderers’ defenders were left bamboozled by his mesmerizing dribbling abilities, as he immediately represented the iconic image required to wear the famous and legendary No. 7 jersey at Manchester United.
Fan-favourite David Beckham had departed Old Trafford to join Real Madrid in the same transfer window that Cristiano arrived at the club. Supporters were hanging their hopes on the inexperienced 18-year-old, and expectations increased following his exceptional performance against Bolton Wanderers. However, he was unable to replicate this on a consistent basis, and supporters would have to wait patiently for his evolution, as he endured a difficult beginning to life in England.
He was once again tasked with acclimatizing to a different culture, language and climate, as well as adapting to the physical nature of English football. Ronaldo was branded as a ‘show pony’, accused of diving and was teased by his teammates during training sessions. Life in England was proving tough, but Ronaldo had a strong mentality instilled in him from a young age to deal with such adversity, and overcame it through resilience and sheer determination.
Cristiano later admitted that his early struggles in England helped him mature as a footballer and also as a human being. He began to train to improve his physique in an attempt to toughen up, worked on his weak heading ability and became a more all-rounded player as a result. He began to design the marketable image which young children who idolise him attempt to mimic playing with their friends. As a young child, I used to roll my sleeves half way down my arm, just like Cristiano. I used to copy his trademark approach to free-kicks, attempt extravagant step overs and always wanted to wear the No. 7 shirt, which because of Cristiano and Manchester United, is also my favourite number.
Through sheer resilience, he’s built the self-belief and confidence in his own ability to reach the very top. He overcame adversity and difficult times in the early stages of his Manchester United career to enjoy three incredibly successful seasons at Old Trafford, before jetting off to Madrid for a then world-record fee of £80 million.
Ronaldo also had to deal with a tragic death of his father in 2005, but grew an incredible bond with manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who he described as a “father figure” for the manor in which he treated him during his father’s time in hospital. Manchester United were reaching a highly climatic stage in the season when Cristiano discovered his father was suffering in a serious condition in hospital.
My daddy was sick in hospital, he was in hospital very bad in a coma. I had a conversation with him and said boss I don’t feel good and I want to see my dad. He replied – Cristiano you want to go one day, two days, one week then you can go. I’m going to miss you because you’re important but your daddy is in first place. Cristiano Ronaldo
This sparked a fantastic relationship between the Portuguese international and the Scotsman, which remains incredibly strong until this day. Ferguson has regularly been pictured with Cristiano, most notably during trophy ceremony after he won Euro 2016 with Portugal, and Cristiano welcomed Ferguson with a warm hug and still addressed him as “boss.”
Ferguson was “the father of football” to Cristiano and played a pivotal and decisive role in shaping him into the character and player he is at Real Madrid today. His dream of playing for Real Madrid finally became a reality in 2009, although Ronaldo was intent on making the switch after winning his first UEFA Champions League at the end of the 2007/08 season.
Due to his respect for Fergie, the pair sat down and discussed the future. They agreed that one more season of high quality football from Ronaldo was required, before he was allowed to spread his wings and make his dream move to the Spanish capital. Ronaldo left Manchester as a superstar, and has transformed himself into the very best.
Modern football contains footballers with an equal amount of potential that Cristiano once boasted during his early career, but there is one difference, which is his level of discipline. Ronaldo worked relentlessly on improving his physique, technique, athleticism and fitness to ensure that he’s far superior from his opposition.
His strict training regimes have built him into the fine specimen that he is today, which requires extreme dedication, willpower and passion. At Sporting CP, Cristiano would continue training in the gym late into the night, whilst the other boys on the complex where he lived in Lisbon would be busy sleeping.
He continued his evolution and development at Manchester United by persistently pestering Dutch goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar to guard goal whilst he practiced his free-kick technique. His remarkable growth in power also became evident in England, after he arrived in Manchester as a skinny adolescent and departed to Madrid boasting a stocky and athletic physique.
The art of heading was underappreciated in Portugal, but Cristiano soon identified the benefits of heading the ball at Old Trafford. He worked with Rene Meulensteen on his positional play and simplified his style of play by religiously committing himself to perfecting his off-the-ball intelligence.
This was perfectly illustrated during the 2008 UEFA Champions League Final against Chelsea, when Cristiano broke the deadlock with an immaculate free header at the far post. He’s since showcased his supreme ability to read the game on numerous occasions during his sensational spell at Real Madrid.
His drive and determination to continuously improve and perfect aspects of his game has transformed him into a complete player. Anything his opponent can do, Ronaldo can do better. He’s broken countless records, especially in Spain, and boasts an exceptional record of 434 goals in 425 appearances in all competitions for Real Madrid, winning a total of 25 major honours at club and international level.
Cristiano Ronaldo will leave a permanent mark on many supporters’ lives, who’ve witnessed the true brilliance that he’s provided during his highly distinguished, successful and scintillating career. The man will leave an immortal legacy on the beautiful game and will be remembered as one of the greatest ever players to brace the green blades of grass on a football pitch.
He’s self inflicted his rise from ‘The Boy from Madeira’ to ‘The King of Manchester’ to ‘The God of Madrid’. Ronaldo deserves such credit due to his sacrifices, resilience, discipline and dedication, which he’s demonstrated from the moment he first came in contact with a ball made of rags in the streets of Sao Pedro.
To reach the top you have to make sacrifices, and Ronaldo has continuously made them from the moment the flame of passion was ignited in his veins. He’s hated, adored but never ignored, which is a popular motto regularly used by supporters of his former club Manchester United.
It seems as if he’s embarking on the end of his career, as his decline has become evident over the past nine months. Ronaldo was always destined to conclude his career at the top level, but once he regresses and can’t compete at this level, I’m certain he’ll surrender his throne. He’s strived to become the king of football and will end his career in this way, but in typical Cristiano fashion, I’m sure he still has another chapter of greatness to write before he deprives us of his beautiful football for good.