A young Portuguese footballer makes his Premier League debut for iconic club Manchester United. There was a buzz around Old Trafford about Cristiano Ronaldo, who recently transferred from Sporting CP, and the 18-year-old immediately showed sparkling skills on the wing. But, despite all the hype surrounding him, few would have imagined that the teenager would blossom into a player widely regarded as one of the best to ever lace up his boots, with a treasure trove of trophies, and a style of play as beautiful as it is ruthless.
Twenty years have passed since that first appearance in English football, and so far, Ronaldo made it to the top players of the world. Irishluck.ie richest footballers list ranked the star second among, with an estimated net worth – a whooping $460M! As Ronaldo enters the twilight of his career in Saudi Arabia, it’s a good time to reflect on his achievements in the sport and his influence beyond it.
Early life and move to Manchester
Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro was born on 5 February 1985 in Funchal, the capital of the Portuguese island of Madeira. His first top-flight season at Sporting CP earned him the attention of major clubs in Europe, and particularly in England where Liverpool, Arsenal, and Manchester United were all determined to sign him. Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson proved the most determined, and as the United squad waited on a bus after a pre-season friendly against Sporting CP in Lisbon, he told chief executive Peter Kenyon “We are not leaving this ground until we have that boy signed.” And signed he was, for a fee of £12.24 million.
The move was completed in time for August 16th, 2003, the opening game of the Premier League season. Ronaldo had been living apart from his family for six years, and found in Ferguson a father-figure, and a fearsome manager who would push him from a talented youngster to an all-time great.
Such was Ferguson’s belief in his abilities that Ronaldo was immediately given the iconic number 7 shirt, worn by George Best, Eric Cantona, and most recently David Beckham, who had recently departed for Real Madrid. It took a couple of seasons to mould Ronaldo from a fast, tricky, exciting player into one that could change the entire face of the game with his talents. The 2006-07 EPL season was a real turning point, beginning a run of three league titles, as well as a showering of accolades as he scored freely and prolifically, his game becoming more complete and his presence on the pitch more influential — this culminated in winning his first Ballon d’Or in 2008.
Ronaldo, like Beckham before him, grew into the number 7 shirt, becoming a talismanic force in a dominant United side, as well as an inspiration across world football. Like many top players, his presence on the field even influences betting, both in drawing bettors in and determining bookmakers’ odds. Many newbies to the world of sports betting are attracted by big names like Ronaldo, and with great resources like Irishluck available, they can make informed and reliable bets on safe sites.
The Portuguese national team has enjoyed a resurgence during Ronaldo’s career, becoming regular fixtures in the knock-out stages of the World Cup and European Championships. He assumed the captaincy in 2008, regularly providing goals and assists, with his formidable presence often enough to inspire his country to punch above its weight on the world stage. All this hard work eventually paid off, as Portugal won their first major tournament at Euro 2016, despite Ronaldo sustaining an injury early on in the final.
Portugal was also crowned inaugural champions at the 2018–19 UEFA Nations League final, and Ronaldo is now the country’s leading goal scorer.
Real and Juve
Ronaldo’s most successful spell as a pro came during his tenure at Spanish giants Real Madrid, between 2009 and 2018. During this time he won a further four Ballon d’Or, as well as becoming Real’s all-time top scorer. His legend at the club was cemented during his time there by way of five Champions League victories and two La Liga titles.
In 2018, Ronaldo signed for legendary Italian club Juventus, making an immediate impact as the club’s top scorer en route to the Serie A title. A second consecutive title would follow the following year, with his prolific goal-scoring showing no sign of abating, despite the team’s form slipping from 2020.
Saudi Arabia via Manchester
In a move that caught many by surprise, Ronaldo signed up for Manchester United once more, perhaps hoping for a career swan song. But, despite a reasonable personal performance in his first season, the club was in disarray, and his relationship with manager Ralf Rangnick was becoming tense and fractured.
Rangnick departed at the end of the 2021-22 season, but Ronaldo’s problems continued — new boss Erik ten Hag punished him for refusing to come on as a substitute, and began negotiating for a loan or free transfer. The end came when Ronaldo was interviewed by Piers Morgan, openly criticising the club on a footballing level as well as directing words towards controversial owners the Glazers. His contract was terminated by mutual consent on 22nd November 2022.
Ronaldo moved to Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr, and now has the highest salary in world football, at around £180 million per year. He joined mid-way through the season, helping the club to a 2nd-place finish in the league. This year, Al Nassr has already won the Arab Club Champions Cup — Ronaldo was the competition’s top scorer.
The curtain may be coming down on Cristiano Ronaldo’s illustrious career, but his influence will live on in the sport. From humble beginnings, he rose to become one of football’s greatest-ever players, with legendary performances for his club(s) and country.