You would do well to find any football fan in the world who could not recount the exact journey of the mercurial Cristiano Ronaldo.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner started out with fairly humble beginnings at Portugal’s Sporting Lisbon making 28 appearances for the club and only scoring a moderate three goals in the league.
But it was immediately obvious that, though a little jagged at times, the young Portuguese star was a diamond – a precious star-to-be which simply needed refining by the talent factory that was Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson.
It was 2003 when the relatively unknown star made his way onto English soil in a deal worth to be an estimated £12.24 million – making him the most expensive teenager in the history of the game (as per The Guardian).
Sir Alex Ferguson praised his signing as “one of the most exciting young players [he’s] ever seen,” whilst Portuguese legend Eusebio correctly predicted that, “Ronaldo is not just a footballer, he is waiting to be an icon,” noting: “He would enhance any team, any league anywhere. I really believe he is that good.”
Funnily enough, the same Guardian article would detail that a 19-year-old Ricardo Quaresma “ranked ahead of Ronaldo in terms of develop” – which is either an extremely poor judgement or testament to just how hard the star worked to be where he is today.
Although Ronaldo’s early career in Manchester was sprinkled with pockets of doubt, typically drawn from the eccentric and almost exotic approach to skills and trickery, which sometimes were not pulled off in the most fluid style, fans eventually warmed to their new star and the rest was history.
The 2006/07 season returned his first piece of silverware as United went on to win the title, Ronaldo claiming the PFA Player of the Year award in the process.
Two Premier League titles, two English league cups, one FA Cup and one Champions League trophy later, Ronaldo left for Madrid to become the world’s most expensive player for the first time.
The rest was history. He managed a mind-boggling 450 goals in 438 appearances for the club, helping them to four Champions League wins. It really takes a moment to look at Ronaldo’s stats to appreciate the kind of player that he is.
And for us it was all made at Manchester United – the place where he developed, toughened up and was given a chance to shine on the big stage.
Now at Juventus and leading them the Italian giants Champions League glory, Ronaldo most recent heroics means he has the most goals, most group stage goals, most final goals, most braces, most hat-tricks and most assists in Europe (amongst many for accolades).
It is a sensational career that honestly does not look like it is stopping any time soon, with the move to Italy surely prolonging his lifespan by at least another three years.