Cristiano Ronaldo Dos Santos Aviero or just plain old Cristiano Ronaldo as he better known is anything but a plain run of the mill footballer. His silky skills, dribbling ability, party tricks, superb swerving fee kicks, towering headers are all consolidated by his inner determination and will to win. However this obvious will to win sometimes leads the player into bending the rules slightly in order to turn the tide in favour of himself and teammates.
With all that said and done there is no doubt that Ronaldo has the potential to go down as one of the all time greats of football and could well surpass the exceptional heights reached by the likes of George Best, Pele, Diego Maradona and Johan Cruyff.
Sporting Lisbon Career
Cristiano Ronaldo started on the road to football superstardom at the age of eight when he joined local youth side CF Andorinha, where his father Jose was the the kitman. Two years later when the young Ronaldo was just ten years old he began to attract the attention of the island’s (Madeira) bigger clubs, namely CD Maritimo and CS Nacional. In a twist of fate the player signed for CS Nacional – the smaller of the two clubs – after a representative from the former club failed to turn for a meeting with the Andorinha manager.
After his new club won the league title the scouts at Sporting Lisbon were made aware of Cristiano Ronaldo’s budding talent and invited him over to the mainland for a three day trial which the player duly accepted. He then went on to impress the coaches so much during his time in Portugal’s capital that they quickly snapped him up for an undisclosed fee.
When Ronaldo was inducted into Sporting’s youth academy the other players made fun of his peculiar island accent, which left him feeling homesick. Being the determined fella that he is he shrugged off the taunts and eventualy became the first player in Sporting’s illustrious history to have turned out for the Under-16, Under-17, Under -18, Sporting Lisbon’s ‘B’ and first team in the same season, which only compunded the talent and potemtial he was showing.
Ronaldo made his Sporting debut against lower League side Atletico on 16 August 2001, aged just 16 years old. However the youung winger would have to wait over a year for his League debut, doing so on 29 September 2002 when he replaced Romanian international striker Marius Niculae as a 69th minute subsitiute in the 4-2 defeat at Sporting Brage. Just seven days later manager Laszlo Boloni deemed Cristiano Ronaldo ready to make his full league debut, which he did against Northwest outift Moreirense. The player repayed the managers faith by bagging a brace as Sporting ran out 3-0 winners to keep in touch with eventual league champions FC Porto. That season Cristiano Ronaldo would go on to make 31 appearances for the club in all competitions, getting himself on the scoresheet five times.
During the pre-season campaign of 2003-2004 a twist of fate would rear it’s head. Sporting had invited Manchester United to play a match to commemorate the opening of their Alvalade XXI stadium. The match took place on 6 August 2003, with Sporting running out 3-1 winners and so good was Ronaldo’s display on that summer’s night that Manchester United stars such as John O’shea (who had been left dumped on the seat of his pants by the winger’s jiggery-pokery during the game), Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs. Just a few days later Sir Alex Ferguson tabled a £12.25m bid for the Ronaldo which was accepted by Sporting. On his arrival the manager gave the player the famous number 7 shirt which was worn by David Beckham in the prior season. Other notable players to have worn the magnificent 7 shirt include legends George Best, Bryan Robson and talismatic figure Eric Cantona.
Cristiano Ronaldo made his debut on 16 August 2003 when he replaced Nicky Butt in the 60th minute against Bolton Wanderers. At the time Manchester United were winning 1-0, through a superb Ryan Giggs free-kick. Despite this the team were struggling to find the second goal – which would secure victory against their Lancashire rivals. Ronaldo made an instant impact, little more than 10 minutes into his debut he charged down the left wing, jinked inside into the penalty area – leaving the floundering Nicky Hunt in his wake – and was cynically dragged down by Kevin Nolan. Referee Paul Durkin had no other choice than to point to the spot. Unfortunately Ruud Van Nistelrooy missed the penalty kick which was superbly saved by Wanderers stopper Jussi Jaaskelainen. However the young Portugeuse star was causing havoc all over the pitch with his quicksilver skills and lightening pace, the mayhem brought about by the player – in the Bolton defence – opened up gaps which his teammates exploited. United eventually ran out 4-0 victors with Cristiano Ronaldo picking up the Man of the Match award and the adoration of the Old Trafford faithful. After his initial impact the player was used sparingly by Sir Alex Ferguson, which meant he would have to wait until 1 November 2003 to score his first Manchester United goal, when he netted an 80th minute free-kick in the 3-0 home victory over Portsmouth.
That season the player would represent The Red Devils 40 times and contributing 6 goals including United’s opening goal in their 3-0 F.A. Cup final victory over Millwall at Cardiff’s Millenium Stadium . In addition to his breakthrough season he also broke into the Portugal national team, making his debut against Kazakhstan on 20 August 2003 when he came on as a second-half substitute in his country’s 1-0 victory. At the end of the season Cristiano Ronaldo was drafted into Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Euro 2004 squad for the tournament which was to be held in player’s homeland. The winger had a superb competition and would it not have been for the infamous Wayne Rooney sending-off incident would’ve walked away with the Young Player of the Tournament trophy, the prize was subsequently given to Germany’s Lukas Podolski.
After the tournament the player was made a scapegoat in the Englsh media for England’s demise and as a result it seemed that the whole country had turned against the player. Quite rightly Ronaldo had his reservations about returning to Old Trafford, fearing for his safety. But after he was reassured by Sir Alex Ferguson and assistant coach and fellow countryman Carlos Queiroz, decided to brazen things out. Cristiano Ronaldo would have to wait two years after his first success to get his hands on more silverware, when Manchester United demolished an overwhelmed Wigan Athletic 4-0 to win the 2006 League cup netting The Reds third goal in the process.
The following season would turn put to be his best yet, with the wonderful winger being a key player as Manchester United brought the Premier League trophy back to Manchester for the first time in three years. The Portuguese star bagged himself an incredible 17 league goals in only 34 games and picked up the PFA Player and Young Player of the Year award as well as the Football Writers’ Player of the Season accolade. 2007-2008 saw Cristiano Ronaldo elevate himself into the rhelms of superstardom when on the way to helping Manchester United win the Premier League and UEFA Champions League double scored a breathtaking 42 goals in just 48 appearances, heading both competitions’ scoring charts to boot. If this wasn’t enough he won Europe’s prestigious Golden Boot award – finishing four strikes ahead of Real Mallorca’s Dani Guiza. Wait there’s more. He also broke George Best’s club record of 32 goals for a winger in a season, doing so on 19 March 2008 with more than two months of the campaign still to play. He evntually finished the season just four goals shy of Denis Laws record of 46