Cristiano Ronaldo: A Football Legend’s Legacy On & Off The Pitch

When it comes to the title of GOAT (greatest of all time), few athletes can claim it as confidently as Cristiano Ronaldo does.

By Mark Pais

Cristiano Ronaldo’s journey wasn’t paved with gold from the start. Unlike his rival Lionel Messi, he wasn’t hailed as a prodigy in his younger days. He was just a kid from Madeira with big dreams.

Humble Beginnings

In 1985, Cristiano Ronaldo entered this world as the youngest of four children, born into a family struggling with poverty. His parents named him after Ronald Reagan, their favourite actor. Little did they know, their boy would soon become a global icon in his own right!

Growing up in Madeira, Portugal, football was more than just a game for Ronaldo — it was a lifeline. His father, José Dinis Aveiro, worked as a kit man for CF Andorinha, and young Cristiano soaked up every moment spent on the sidelines. It was there, amidst the cheers and the passion, that his love for football was ignited.

His Early Career

From a young age, Ronaldo’s dedication to the sport was unparalleled. At just seven, he laced up his boots for CF Andorinha, dazzling spectators with his talent. Even then, his skills were unmistakable, earning him the nickname ‘abelhinha’ or little bee, from his teammates.

As Ronaldo grew older, his passion for football only intensified. At 14, he made the bold decision to leave school and pursue his dream full-time. Well, to be fair, he was expelled by his school for throwing his chair at a teacher for disrespecting him; however, that’s a story for another time. Signed by Sporting Lisbon, one of Portugal’s most esteemed clubs, Ronaldo wasted no time in making his mark. 

But just as his star was on the rise, fate dealt Ronaldo a cruel blow. The diagnosis of a heart condition threatened to derail his promising career. It was a moment of uncertainty and fear for Ronaldo and his family, but he faced it head-on. His heart surgery went well, so well, that his father claimed that he felt young Cristiano began to run even faster!

The Game That Changed Everything

In a twist of fate, a friendly match between Manchester United and Lisbon became the turning point in Ronaldo’s career. It was supposed to be a routine practice for the English Premier League giants, Manchester United. However, the young scrawny kid from Lisbon had other plans. Every Manchester United player, from Gary Neville to Ryan Giggs, was left in awe of Ronaldo’s talent. Sir Alex Ferguson, the legendary manager of Manchester United, had seen enough. He was determined to sign the young Portuguese prodigy. At just 18, Ronaldo became the first Portuguese player to join Manchester United. And to add to the pressure, he was handed the iconic number 7 jersey, previously worn by David Beckham.

With expectations sky-high, Ronaldo didn’t disappoint. He quickly made his mark, winning multiple Premier League titles, domestic cup titles, and even the coveted Champions League. Individually, he clinched the Golden Boot and the Ballon d’Or, establishing himself as the best player in the world.

But as Ronaldo’s star rose, so did another’s. In Spain, a young magician named Lionel Messi was making waves for FC Barcelona, setting the stage for the greatest rivalry in sports entertainment.

The Move To The Galacticos

Every footballer dreams of playing for Real Madrid, and Ronaldo was no exception. In a record-breaking £80 million transfer, Ronaldo made his move to the Spanish capital, carrying the weight of expectations on his shoulders. As he stepped onto the grand stage of the Santiago Bernabéu, Ronaldo knew he had to prove himself as the best in the world, outshining even his rival in Barcelona. And prove himself he did. With 451 goals, 44 hat-tricks, and a slew of accolades including four Ballon d’Ors and four Champions League titles, Ronaldo’s time at Real Madrid was nothing short of spectacular.

New Ambitions, New Beginnings

To the dismay of many ‘Madridistas’, Ronaldo bid Real Madrid farewell after securing his 4th Champions League title and embarked on a new chapter with the Italian giants, Juventus. His impact was immediate and profound, with 101 goals in 134 games for the club. However, Juventus faced struggles, with multiple player transfers, coaching changes, and the disruptive force of the pandemic hindering their quest for a Champions League title. While Ronaldo remained formidable, it was perhaps the first time a project he was part of could be labelled as failed.

Back To The Beginning

As Ronaldo approached the age of 36, with his playing days numbered, he made a dream comeback to Manchester United. The moment was encapsulated beautifully by world-famous commentator Peter Drury: “Manchester Again, reeved in red, restored to this great gallery of the game, a walking work of art, vintage, beyond valuation, beyond forgery or imitation, 18 years since that trembling teenage of touch and tease just tiptoed onto this storied stage, his immaculate maturity, CR7.”

Continuing his goal-scoring prowess, Ronaldo led by example a somewhat dysfunctional Manchester United team. However, tragedy struck in the second season as Ronaldo lost his unborn child and suffered from injuries. Moreover, clashes with the football ideology of his coach Eric Ten Hag led to Ronaldo’s move to Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia. Despite challenges, Ronaldo became the highest-paid football player in the world during this period.

A New Start

Joining Al Nassr, Ronaldo aimed to put Saudi Arabian football in the spotlight while continuing his goal-scoring prowess. He broke the record for the most goals scored ever, surpassing Brazilian legend Pelé. Ronaldo’s presence attracted world-class players and sponsors to Saudi Arabia, contributing to the growth of football in the region.

Business Ventures

Beyond his on-field achievements, Ronaldo has demonstrated business acumen, leveraging his name to build a diverse portfolio. These include:

CR7 Hotels: A joint venture with the Pestana Hotel Group, offering luxury accommodation.

Clothing and Perfume: Ronaldo’s ventures include a lingerie company, denim brand (CR7 Denim), perfume line, and a collaboration with Denali to produce the CR7 Blanket.

Restaurants: Ronaldo has a stake in Grupo Mabel Capital, which owns the elite restaurant Zela, with branches in Ibiza and London.

Fitness Centre: Ronaldo partnered with Crunch Franchise to establish CR7 Crunch Fitness.

Private Jet: Ronaldo owns a private jet rental business, providing luxury travel experiences.

Hair Clinic: Ronaldo’s latest venture, Insparya, focuses on hair transplantation, with several branches in Portugal.

Giving Back

Ronaldo has consistently demonstrated generosity through charitable endeavours, notably donating £5 million to aid efforts in Nepal following a devastating earthquake in 2015. He was named the world’s most charitable sportsperson by dosomething.org.

Among his many philanthropic contributions, he came to the aid of a 10-month-old baby in 2014, paying for a brain operation to prevent the child from having up to 30 seizures a day. 

In 2013, Ronaldo lent his name and donated to a project to conserve the mangrove forests in Indonesia following a tsunami, after seeing the footage of a young victim wearing a Portugal shirt with his name on it. In the past, he has also donated more than $165,000 to fund a cancer centre in Portugal that treated his mother. He said, “My father always taught me that when you help other people, then God will give you double, and that’s what has really happened to me. When I have helped other people who are in need, God has helped me more.” Ronaldo donates blood regularly and refuses to get tattoos for the same reason. 

Always A Star

Hailed as one of the greatest footballers of all time, Cristiano Ronaldo has earned his place in the history book. Ask his teammates, coaches or even rivals, they will not shy away from revealing just how hard he has worked to fine tune his game and become the player that millions can’t help but cheer for. On the field, he is a machine, scoring goals with determination and finesse. He has shown the world that even a scrawny boy from Portugal can make it to the top, on the strength of his mentality. Ronaldo isn’t perfect but that makes him more relatable, that someone with flaws can still make it at the highest level. It gives scores of young boys a real sliver of hope. 

Devoted Dad
“Becoming a parent and raising my family is honestly the greatest privilege I’ve had,” the football sensation has said. He became a dad in 2010 with the birth of his first son, Cristiano Jr. Seven years later, he welcomed twins Eva Maria and Mateo via surrogacy, and then had a child with partner Georgina Rodriguez who was named Alana Martina. The pair had twins in 2022; however, while his daughter Bella survived, his newborn son Angel passed away. 

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