A CAREER IN KITS: CRISTIANO RONALDO
18 years after initially arriving in Manchester as a slightly gawky youth with frosted tips, bad teeth and a god awful jumper, Ronaldo is back.
His time away has seen him become the highest scoring international of all time, quite probably the highest scoring footballer of all time outright and first player to ever win every major domestic trophy in England, Spain and Italy. Basically, he’s done pretty well for himself.
So as he returns to the place where his ascent to global domination truly began, we take a look back at a career in kits of quite probably the finest goalscorer the game has ever seen.
Having started life on the island of Madeira, Ronaldo moved from his homeland to sign for Sporting at just 12 years old. His career was almost over before it began after undergoing heart surgery aged 15, following a successful operation Ronaldo remarkably made his debut less than a year later. His rise made him the first player in the sides history to rise from the U-16’s to the first team in a single year.
After being blown away by the young winger's ability in a 2003 friendly match against United, Alex Ferguson signed him to his side for a little over £12 million. By the end of his first season he had impressed to such an extent that United legend George Best said of the 18 year old - "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." The next six years would see Ronaldo and United claim 8 major honours as well as Ronaldo’s first Ballon D’or in 2008.
2009 would see Ronaldo become the most expensive player in history in arguably the most high profile transfer the sport has ever seen. Real forked out £80 million for his services and over 80,000 fans packed into the Bernabeu to welcome him. After a single year with the number 9, due to his favoured number 7 being occupied by Raul, he switched back at the start of the 2010/11 season. At Real, Ronaldo morphed into a ruthless finisher and scored a frankly insane 451 goals in just 438 appearances as his battles with Messi became the focal point of the footballing world for almost a decade.
Remarkably at 33 years old Ronaldo commanded a €112 million fee, almost double that of the next highest 30+ player (and even that move was seemingly dodgy bookkeeping by Barca rather than a genuine transfer). Ronaldo did not quite have the impact that was perhaps expected but he was undoubtedly one of the league's standout performers during his seasons in Turin. During his three year stay he became the most prolific Portuguese player in the leagues history, scored over 100 goals for Juventus and became the oldest player to score more than 30 goals in a season in more than 70 years.
After rampant speculation that he would be joining Pep Guardiola in the blue half of Manchester, the footballing world was stunned when, seemingly out of nowhere, it was announced that he would be rejoining United. The late call apparently being heavily influenced by conversations with the great Sir Alex, who he specifically referred to in his first message to the United fans. It has been reported that the club are in the process of seeking special dispensation for Ronaldo to wear the number 7 shirt again.
Words by Andy Gallagher
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