As if going to a match at the Bernabéu Stadium to watch Real Madrid wasn’t a big enough attraction anyway, the club has now gone and smashed the world transfer record to bring Cristiano Ronaldo to La Liga.
A staggering £80 million has gone to Manchester United to acquire the World Player of the Year – a sum that the Madrid club consider to be great value for money, considering the skill that the player possesses on the pitch. And, of course, the moneymaking potential he brings off it.
Footballers, of course, always polarise opinion. Fans of one club are notoriously reluctant to praise players from a bitter rival; preferring to promote their own team members. I remember last season, Marca, Real Madrid’s mouthpiece, for several weeks proclaiming that Arjen Robben could statistically be shown to be a far better player than Lionel Messi, for example.
Few polarise opinions quite so much as Cristiano Ronaldo, though. Whilst many are prepared to acknowledge that he is currently the world’s best player, fewer people are willing to say equally positive things about the man himself. This despite Sir Alex Ferguson publicly stating that he’d love the player to return to Old Trafford one day and for univseral appreciation that he has spent hours on the training pitches honing his skills. Why is it that so many football supporters want to criticise Ronaldo for ‘diving’ and histrionics? Let’s face it, he’s hardly the first footballer to try to get penalties when slightly nudged in the box or to throw a tantrum when substitued, is he?
Famously born in 1985 on the beautiful island of Madeira, in Funchal, the capital city, Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro is the youngest of four children. It says much about his parents that Ronaldo gained his name because of the fact that Ronald Reagan was his father’s favourite actor, apparently! Readers are invited to insert their own chimpanzee jokes at this stage. Playing amateur football from the age of eight, he then went across to mainland Portugal after signing for Sporting Lisbon. It was in the friendly against Manchester United that marked the refurbishment of the team’s stadium in preparation for Euro 2004, that Ronaldo first impressed the manager of Sporting’s opponents that day, Sir Alex Ferguson – who then went on to sign the player for over £12 million when he was just 18 years old.
This was a big gamble on such an inexperienced youngster, but one which repaid Ferguson’s faith in the player’s undoubted talents. Ronaldo, initially criticised as being something of a ‘show pony’ by many observers, developed into an impressive goal scoring and goal-making phenomenon. During his time at Manchester he helped United win the Premier League title for three consecutive years and also the European Champions’ League. He was transformed from being a slightly frail looking teenager into a strong, athletic player who, despite the attention he receives from defenders, misses few games through injury.
His seemingly inflammatory behaviour towards Wayne Rooney must have made life difficult for him at Old Trafford for a time – as did his pleadings to leave during and after the 2008 European Championships. But not once did his enormous self-belief waver and he soon won back the support of fans and team-mates alike. And as for the opposing fans booing him – well, like many great players, Ronaldo seems to be inspired by it rather than intimidated.
Cristiano Ronaldo has nothing left to prove on the football pitch. He’s won everything as an individual – World Player of the Year, Ballon d’Or, PFA Player of the Year, etc, etc. And, although the Portuguese national team that he now captains is going through a comparatively sticky patch, his impact on the teams he represents is always second to none.
All that remains for him is to play for the club he supported as a child and for whom his mother Dolores clearly wanted him to sign. Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo are obviously made for each other – he looks very much at home in the all white strip and the full stadium that greeted his public unveiling showed how much the Madrid public yearned for his signing. Now we have to find out whether he can have the same impact on Madrid’s fortunes as he did on Manchester United’s. It might be a bit more difficult – but it’s going to be fun watching.
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