Over the years, football has produced some truly great players. In the last 5 years or so, one that has risen to worldwide prominence is Portuguese winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, who has attracted plaudits from some of the greatest-ever names in football. Former Dutch maestro and “European Player of the Century”, Johan Cruyff, said of Ronaldo, “Ronaldo is better than George Best and Denis Law.”
Cristiano Ronaldo, full name Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro, was born on 5th February 1985 in Funchal, Madeira. His father had been a great fan of actor Ronald Reagan, the US president at the time, hence his second given name of “Ronaldo.” He has three older siblings, brother Hugo and sisters Elma and Liliana Cátia.
At an early age, Ronaldo was a Benfica fan, though, ironically, he would later sign for rivals Sporting CP. He began his footballing career at the age of eight, playing for local amateur team Clube de Futebol Andorinha, where his father was the technical director. Due to his size and strength, his original position was as a central defender, only later developing the speed and skills to take up a position of the wing, for which he is now famous. In 1995, Ronaldo signed with local professional club Clube Desportivo Nacional, and after a successful campaign, was given a trial by Sporting Clube de Portugal, who subsequently signed him for an undisclosed fee. Ronaldo joined Sporting`s “Alcochete”, the club`s football academy. He became the only player ever to play for Sporting`s under-16, under-17, under-18, “B” team and first team, all within the same season. He scored twice on his debut for Sporting against northern Portuguese side Moreirense.
Ronaldo`s performances for the Portugal under-17 side brought him attention from the wider footballing community. At sixteen, he impressed Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier, who declined to sign him as he considered Ronaldo too young, needing time to develop. However, on 6th August 2003, Sporting CP defeated Manchester United 3-1 at the official opening of their new Jose Alvalade stadium. United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was extremely impressed by Ronaldo`s abilities on both wings. Ronaldo`s precocious talent saw him sign for Manchester United, as an eighteen year-old, for a transfer fee in excess of £12 million.
He earned his first international cap for Portugal in a 1-0 victory against Kazakhstan later the same month. He also represented Portugal at Euro 2004, being named in the “Team of the Tournament”, despite only scoring twice.
In the 2002-03 season, Ronaldo scored 5 times in 31 appearances for Sporting CP, including 2 goals from 3 appearances in the domestic cup competition. Since his debut in 2003, he has also scored 21 times in 59 appearances for the Portuguese national side. For Manchester United, in 171 league appearances he has scored 72 times, leading to him becoming a firm favourite with punters who like a bet on the UK premier league.