From a humble Madeira upbringing to the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2008, Cristiano Ronaldo's rise to prominence is nothing short of remarkable. The Portuguese winger has built a footballing legacy, winning numerous fans and honors along the way including the UEFA Champions League, the English Premier League and the Spanish King's Cup.
Ronaldo's youth career began in 1993 at the age of 8 with CF Adorinha in his home town of Funchal, Madeira. The precocious young winger then moved to Portuguese Premier Division CD Nacional in 1995 --- also based in Ronaldo's home town --- at the age of 10. Ronaldo made his first big move in 1997, joining Sporting Lisbon CF's much-reputed youth academy for a fee of around $2,400.
At 16, Ronaldo became the first ever player to feature for Sporting's under-16, under-17, under-18 and B teams in the same season. This achievement also earned him international youth honors when he turned out for Portugal at the FIFA World Under-17 Championships. The winger's dazzling footwork and impressive 6-foot-1-inch frame, combined with his emerging trademark stepover and dribbling, saw Ronaldo attract interest from some of the world's top clubs. After impressing for Sporting Lisbon against Manchester United in an August 2003 pre-season friendly, the English giants' players urged their manager Sir Alex Ferguson to make an approach.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson obliged his players' request, signing Ronaldo for a fee of 22 million euros ($20 million) in August 2003. Ronaldo was an instant hit at United, helping them to a 4-0 demolition of Bolton Wanderers on his debut and receiving praise from his manager. That same month, Ronaldo made his full international debut in a 1-0 victory over Kazakhstan. The powerful winger went on to win three English Premier League titles, one FA Cup, two League Cups, the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup during his six-year United career. During that time, Ronaldo also won several personal distinctions, including the FIFA World Player of the Year, known as the Ballon d'Or, in 2008 and the Premier League player of the year twice. Ronaldo also gained 65 caps for his nation, including several appearances as Captain, during his time in Manchester.
Ronaldo's $136.5 million transfer to Real Madrid made him the world's most expensive player at the time. The Spanish giants moved for the winger after his reign of dominance in the English game saw him score on 118 occasions in 291 appearances. Ronaldo was unveiled at the club's Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, as a crowd of 85,000 fans gathered simply to see the star perform a few tricks and give a short speech. Ronaldo was an instant success in the Spanish capital, helping fire Madrid to Copa del Rey (Spanish Cup) success in the 2010-2011 season en route to becoming La Liga's (Spanish League's) record goalscorer for a season with 40 goals.
- "The Guardian"; He's Got the World at his Feet; Tim Lewis; June 2008
- "The Independent"; Ronaldo Scoops Ballon d'Or; Press Association; December 2008
- "The Taipei Times"; Late Ronaldo Goal Wins Copa del Rey; Agence France-Presse; April 2011
- UEFA; Ronaldo Completes Madrid Switch; June 2009
- "Manchester Evening News"; Clash of the Titans; April 2007
- The Daily Mail; Ronaldo Registers "CR9" Trademark as Reports say Real Madrid will give him No 9 Shirt; January 2009
- Denis Doyle/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images