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When you’re in the front pages as much as you are in the back, you know you’re a bit of a superstar. Cristiano Ronaldo is certainly that. He’s the most famous footballer on the planet, and joins a glittering amount of number 7s to be admired and idolized across the planet.
It’s the sacred number in football, worn by the former icons Beckham, Best, and at his current club, Raul, and at each and every club he’s been at he’s made the number his own, earning his place amongst prestigious company.
It’s a far cry from his origins. Born in the small town of Funchal on the Portuguese island of Madeira, a life of stardom was part of the unknown, which is perhaps why he’s worshipped so highly on the island, with Ronaldo even being honored with his own statue. Well, that, and the wizardry he holds at his feet.
From the age of 16, Ronaldo was hitting headlines, his step-overs sending defenders dizzy throughout the Primeira Liga. And then one fateful day, Manchester United rolled into town for a friendly with Sporting Lisbon, the then 18-year-old’s club. Two of the best center halfs on the planet at the Estadio Jose Alvalade in Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic lining up against a young, skinny right winger. The result was the same as it was in the Portuguese League and Sir Alex Ferguson snapped him up for £12.24 million.
Handed the number 7 shirt, the pressure was on Ronaldo, and boy did he lap it up.
George Best, one of the greatest footballers of all time and the man who set the precedent for Manchester United number 7s said, “There have been a few players described as ‘the new George Best’ over the years, but this is the first time it’s been a compliment to me.”
From 2003 to June 2009, Ronaldo was as electric as Best at Old Trafford, his name bellowed out on a weekly basis by the Stretford End before sealing a move to begin a new era of Galacticos. His moves are continually analyzed, he is constantly compared to Lionel Messi, and when it comes to play for his national side the whole world watches on to see what he can produce. Like a world-renowned thespian, center stage is where he is home, competing in the likes of the UEFA European Championships and FIFA World Cup.
But it’s easy to forgive the man who is a continual record breaker, pulls out more tricks than David Copperfield, and produces the kind of goals that even Pele and Maradona would struggle to replicate.
So it’s no wonder Ronaldo is often named one of the best players in the world, if not the greatest player of all time according to some football experts. In fact, in January 2015 during the Portuguese Football Federation’s 100th Anniversary, Ronaldo was named the . He has won one La Liga, one FA Cup, two Copa del Reys, three Premier Leagues titles, and two Football League Cups. That’s not to mention the two FIFA Club World Cups and other minor trophies during his time with Manchester United and Real Madrid. He is also the first Portuguese player to win four European Golden Boot Awards as well as three FIFA Ballon d’Ors.
And remarkably the records don’t end there. Despite being well known for the trickery in his feet, his strength in the air is also breaking records. His 12 headed goals in the Champions League is the most by any player, and he’s the first player in a major European league to score more than 50 goals in four consecutive seasons. Suffice to say, Ronaldo’s an avid scorer, one that has driven the teams he’s played for to success and championship wins again and again; a true asset for any team.
Forbes ranked Ronaldo as the world’s highest paid football player in May 2014, earning $73 million from income and endorsement opportunities. This year, on their list of highest paid athletes, due to earnings of $80 million, just behind boxing champion Floyd Mayweather. Ronaldo’s wealth continues to grow as his name becomes a trustworthy source of taste, with brands paying hefty sums to have him attest to the credibility of their products and services.
Apart from his obvious skill for the game, Ronaldo has also made somewhat of a keen businessman out of himself. He is the face and spokesperson for renowned brands all over the world, contributing to their success and consequential media attention. He hasn’t shied away from being choosy about the brands he partners with, as he demonstrates that a true sensibility towards the finer things in life displays a refinement which has driven him to higher standards with his fan base.
For the last 6 years, Ronaldo has been the spokesperson for Armani Exchange’s jeans and underwear lines. Additionally, as he has worn Nike Mercurial Boots his entire athletic career, Nike decided to . Since then, Nike has created signature Ronaldo boots, the Superfly II Safari CR7 and the Mercurial Superfly CR7, whilst he’s also formed relationships with Motorola, Coca-Cola, and Tag Heuer.
Most recently, Ronaldo joined forces with Barcelona arch rival Neymar by . By becoming part of their Team SportStars he joins the aforementioned Neymar, as well as tennis legend Rafael Nadal and his Brazilian namesake (and also Real Madrid legend) Ronaldo.
But of course he’s only got the fame and the fortune, because of his dedication to his career, and that’s perhaps the reason he is adored by millions. His former manager Carlo Ancelotti was surprised by his work ethic when he joined Real Madrid, and Sir Alex Ferguson has nothing but praise for his efforts on the training ground. Although you only need to look at his physique to have guessed that.
At 30, we’ve already been blessed with 12 years at the top from Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s still Madrid’s key man and that doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon. His fame is increasing, his value as a football certainly is, and his goal tally, well, we all know about that.
Cristiano Ronaldo is an icon. And there’s no harm in saying it, like you all, I wish I was him…