The Football Notebook
Cristiano Ronaldo - from Madeira to the Top
Updated: Jul 22, 2020
From Madeira to Turin, this is Ronaldo's journey to the top
Madeira, Andorinha and Gardening
Cristiano Ronaldo grew up on the beautiful island of Madeira, a now popular tourist attraction for people across the world. The wonderful cliffs overlooking perfect beaches gave an impression of luxury to spectators and tourists alike, however, life was quite the opposite for young Cristiano. Born the youngest of his 3 siblings, his parents had to work 3 jobs between them to support their family. José Dinis Aveiro, Cristiano’s father, worked as a gardener and it was at the gardens he worked where he and Cristiano would start to form a very special bond, with the young boy often accompanying his father to Aveiro’s work.
Despite their struggling situation, Ronaldo’s parents had managed to scrape enough money together to send their son to elementary school, something that Cristiano would immediately dislike. As his disdain for education grew as the years passed by, his love for football grew as well. He played as soon as he got back from his much-maligned school day and didn’t stop until his parents would shout at him to come in when it became dark. At the age of 8, he was already playing football for Andorinha FC where his father took up his second job as a kitman. It was here where Cristiano would continue to hone his skills, the first step in his footballing career.
After a two-year stint with local club Nacional, Ronaldo started to catch the eye of Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon and was offered a trial at only the age of 11. He dazzled, impressing coaches and players, leading to Sporting to offer Cristiano a place on their team. Subsequently, he left his family and travelled to Lisbon’s academy in Alcochete, a life-changing decision that would set him on the path to becoming the player we know today.
In the next 2 years, Ronaldo’s game improved immensely and the people close to him started to realise how good he could become. But after being expelled from school for throwing a chair at a teacher, Cristiano’s parents decided to cease his education entirely and allow him to solely focus on football. This was a very risky decision, as it would leave him no back-up plan to fall back on and gave added pressure to a child who had just become barely a teenager.
Impressing at Sporting Lisbon
At the age of 16, Ronaldo was promoted to Sporting Lisbon’s first team by club manager László Bölöni. He became the first player in their history to play for their under-16, under-17, under-18, the B team, and the first team, all within a single season. On the 7th of October 2002, he made his Primeira Liga debut and scored two goals in a 3-0 win. He immediately became one of the hottest prospects in European football with Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United all vying for his signature.
Breakthrough at Manchester
Despite interest elsewhere, Sir Alex Ferguson was the one that was most determined to sign the young Portuguese winger, calling him ‘one of the most exciting young players’ he had ever seen. Terms were eventually agreed between the two teams after a game between Sporting and the Red Devils, and Cristiano Ronaldo transferred to Manchester for £12.24 million - which made him one of the most expensive teenagers ever. He made his Premier League debut on 16 August 2004, at only the age of 18, and was immediately thrust into the spotlight when George Best dubbed it "undoubtedly the most exciting debut" he had ever witnessed.
Despite only scoring 6 goals in his first season at the club, things started to pick up, and by the end of his 6-year stint at the club, he was the best player in the world. Ronaldo had scored 118 goals in 292 appearances for the club not to mention racking up 69 assists as well. This included an almost impeccable 2007/08 season where he set the record for goals in a Premier League season at 31 and also managed to provide 7 assists to his teammates. Ronaldo was an important cog in the United machine that dominated England in the early 2000s, winning multiple Premier League titles and a Champions League. Ronaldo had written himself into Manchester United hall of fame.
The World Record Transfer
In the summer before the 2009/10 season, Ronaldo became the most expensive player ever when Real Madrid paid £80 million for his services. Expectations were high, but he managed to blow past them, netting 451 goals in only 438 competitive games for Madrid, becoming their record goalscorer by a huge margin. Teaming up with the likes of Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, this Madrid team became a side feared all across Europe - even managing to do an unthinkable 3 CL wins in a row.
The number of trophies Ronaldo had won during his 9-year stint in Madrid was a sight to behold. 4 Champions League Trophies and 2 La Liga Trophies is just the tip of the iceberg, also managing to win 3 Club World Cups, 3 UEFA Super Cups, 2 Copa Del Reys, and 2 Spanish Super Cups - not to mention the Euro 2016 with Portugal. He was also recognised for his individual prowess, bringing home 4 Ballon d’Ors to cap off another successful chapter in his life and career.
A New Challenge in a New Country
Despite such a successful time in Madrid, things grew sour between Ronaldo and Los Blancos owner Florentino Pérez. Ronaldo voiced his need for a new challenge and Juventus were up to the calling, signing the then 33-year-old for £90 million. Sceptics(namely Zlatan Ibrahimovic) were quick to point out the lack of challenge Ronaldo would face in the Serie A because of his move to an already dominant team, and almost saw it as a step down in the Portuguese’s illustrious career. However, Cristiano Ronaldo has been monumental to their success - as shown by the fact that he is involved in a massive 45% of all their league goals since joining the Old Lady. So we can see that clearly it has been a challenge, but one that he has taken and obliterated, with stupendous numbers that defy his age of 35 - when most players are either retired, playing bit-part roles in their team, or plying their trade at a lower level, often for money.
Where to Next
The Portugal captain has said that he wants to play into his 40s, and many of those close to him have echoed this.
But the toll such a strenuous lifestyle has is tremendous - both mentally and physically. And while we believe that Ronaldo’s mindset is unmatched and his motivation to the best will never cease, we know that eventually he has to stop - and that day is not too far away.
The skinny, Madeira-born boy has come a long way to where he is now. And he will go further, possibly winning the Ballon d’Or one last time, or adding a 6th CL medal to his overflowing cabinet.
But you must remember that his career is slowly coming to a close, and you have to savour every moment he is on the pitch - whilst you still can.