In its rich history, football has been witness to numerous ‘rags to riches’ stories. The sheer dedication and hardwork saw many prominent names reaching the epitome of the sport and their tales of success have arguably become the inspiration for many youngsters. But, none of them have managed to capture our imagination than the one undertook by Cristiano Ronaldo – an icon who has ruled the sport in recent years.
Born in Santo Antonio, Funchal – a neighbourhood in the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira, Cristiano Ronaldo lacked many of the luxuries of childhood. Named after his father’s favourite actor – Ronald Reagan, the life that he was born into could not have been further from that of the then-US President.
Living in a two-room, tin-roofed shack, Ronaldo shared a single room with his brother and two sisters, and toys; and Christmas presents were unheard of. His mother, a cook, and his father, a gardener, did their best to provide for their children, but living in Madeira was evidently difficult.
By the age of 14, Ronaldo was convinced about his abilities to play semi-professionally when he decided to cease his education in order to focus entirely on football. With education out of the picture, Ronaldo only had football as a way out of his impoverished life.
While he went on to play for Nacional and then Sporting Lisbon, Ronaldo’s dream of becoming the best in the world got a major boost after he was spotted by Sir Alex Ferguson – who would later play a pivotal role in transforming the career of the Portuguese star.
In August 2003, Ronaldo’s exploits paved way for Sporting Lisbon’s 3-1 win over EPL giants Manchester United. Such was his domination in the game that the Man Utd players urged Ferguson to sign the wonderkid from Madeira. Later, Ferguson himself labelled the then 18-year-old as one of the most exciting young players he had ever seen.
At 12.24 million pounds, Ronaldo didn’t just become Man Utd’s first-ever Portuguese player, but, at the time, he was also the most expensive teenager in English football history. In the years to follow, Ronaldo went on to score 113 goals in 259 appearances for the Red Devils. But, most importantly, he ended up bagging top honours at Old Trafford.
The Portuguese superstar won three Premier League titles, two League Cups, a Community Shield, an FA Cup, a FIFA Club World Cup, the Champions League and the coveted Ballon d’Or between the 2006-07 and 2008-09 seasons before shifting his base to Real Madrid for a then-world-record fee of 80 million pounds. For a club that had cherished his feats and a coach who nourished his skills, Ronaldo’s exit was undoubtedly a heart-break for the Man Utd fans.
But, no one knew why the promising youngster had decided to move on from the club that gave him all the success he needed to excel in the game. Ronaldo, himself, has been vocal about his love and special bond with Man Utd, but the real reason behind his exit has always been a mystery, until now.
After eight years from his move, Ronaldo has finally revealed why he decided to leave the EPL giants and joined Los Blancos. Writing in The Players’ Tribune, the four-time Ballon d’Or winner said that even though his contract with the Old Trafford club was a moment of pride for him and his family, his dreams kept getting bigger, despite the 32-year-old winning laurels at the Premier League club.
“I started dreaming bigger and bigger. I wanted to play for the national team, and I wanted to play for Manchester, because I watched the Premier League on TV all the time. I was mesmerized by how fast the game moved and the songs that the crowds would sing. The atmosphere was so moving to me. When I became a player for Manchester, it was a very proud moment for me, but I think it was an even prouder moment for my family,” he wrote.
Speaking of his desire to play for a more challenging club, Ronaldo continued: “At first, winning trophies was very emotional for me. I remember when I won my first Champions League trophy at Manchester, it was an overwhelming feeling. Same thing with my first Ballon d’Or. But my dreams kept getting bigger. That’s the point of dreams, right? I had always admired Madrid, and I wanted a new challenge. I wanted to win trophies at Madrid, and break all the records, and become a club legend”.
“Over the past eight years, I have achieved incredible things at Madrid. But to be honest, winning trophies later on in my career has become a different kind of emotion. Especially in these last two years. At Madrid, if you don’t win everything, other people consider it a failure. This is the expectation of greatness. This is my job,” he concluded.
Today, he boasts of 411 goals in 401 games for Real Madrid, becoming their all-time leading scorer. At the Santiago Bernabeu, he has won two La Liga titles, two Copa del Reys, two Supercopa de Espana titles, two UEFA Super Cups, two FIFA Club World Cups, three Champions League titles and three Ballon d’Ors.
Photo: © Reuters (Main Image)