Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro is a professional footballer who plays as a winger or an inside forward for Spanish side Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team. The player also serves as captain of Portugal, an honour he has held since the year 2008. He is regarded as one of the finest players of all time.
Born on February 5, 1985, Ronaldo started his youth career at the age of seven with Andorinha. He moved to Nacional at the age of 10 before making the move to Sporting Lisbon’s youth academy in 1997.
After making just a couple of appearances for Sporting’s reserve team in the 2002-03 season, Ronaldo was handed his first team debut on October 7, 2002. He scored two goals in a 3-0 win over Moreirense in the Portuguese Primeira Liga fixture.
Over the course of his debut season in the top-flight, a number of top clubs were alerted about his abilities. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had invited the player to the team’s training ground and discussed a possible deal for the player.
However, fate had other plans for Ronaldo. In August 2003, Sporting Lisbon hosted Manchester United in what was the inaugural match at the Estadio Jose Alvalade. It was a pre-season fixture for both teams and United were well beaten 3-1. Ronaldo had outshined everyone on the pitch that night and the Manchester United players who were on the field on the occasion urged their manager to sign him up.
Sir Alex Ferguson swooped for the player soon after and Ronaldo became the first Portuguese player to feature for Manchester United. The club paid 12.24 million GBP for the player at the time. Ronaldo was handed the number seven shirt at United which was vacated by the sale of David Beckham to Real Madrid that summer.
Ronaldo’s English Premier League debut came on August 16, 2003 in a 4-0 win over Bolton Wanderers. He came on as a substitute for Nicky Butt on the hour mark. George Best, who had previously worn the number seven shirt at United, hailed Ronaldo’s debut as the most exciting that he had ever seen.
His first goal for United came through a free-kick in a 3-0 win over Portsmouth. His first trophy arrived at the end of his debut season when United beat Millwall 3-0 in the FA Cup final. Ronaldo had opened the scoring on the occasion.
Ronaldo would go on to win nine major honours with Manchester United including three Premier League titles on the bounce from 2006-07 to 2008-09 and the UEFA Champions League in 2007-08. The player would also go on to win the first of his four Ballon d’Or awards in 2008. During the 2007-08 season, Ronaldo scored 42 goals in all competitions while forging a superb partnership with Wayne Rooney at United.