Cristiano Ronaldo is widely regarded as one the greatest players in football history. The Real Madrid forward has won five Ballon d'Or titles – a record for a European player – and is the first player in the history to win four European Golden Shoes.
Born in humble circumstances on the Portuguese island of Madeira, Ronaldo began playing for the amateur teams as a child before he was noticed by scouts from Sporting Lisbon, one of Portugal's biggest clubs. Sporting Lisbon signed him for a fee in the region of £1,500 ($2,100) when he was 12 years old and relocated him to their academy near Lisbon.
Ronaldo made rapid progress in the academy and was handed his first-team debut for Sporting at the age of 16 by Laszlo Boloni, who was impressed with the teenager's dribbling ability. The young winger's big break came when Sporting played Manchester United in a pre-season friendly in August 2003, with his performance in the match catching the eye of legendary Red Devils manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
United paid £12m to sign Ronaldo later that month, making him the most expensive teenager in British football at the time.
Ronaldo impressed in the first season in English football, playing an instrumental role in United clinching the FA Cup in the 2003/04 campaign. The following two seasons were lean years for the mercurial winger as United struggled to match the standards set by rivals Arsenal and Chelsea in the Premier League.
After Ronaldo was involved in an incident at the 2006 World Cup that resulted in club teammate Wayne Rooney getting sent off, he was booed at all away stadiums in England during the 2006/07 season. The winger responded to public criticism by producing his most prolific season yet as United won the league title for the first time in four years.
Ronaldo cemented his status as one of the best players in the world in the following season, as he scored 42 goals to power the Red Devils to a league and European Cup double. His remarkable goalscoring feats were recognized by football journalists as he was judged the winner of the Ballon d'Or award for the first time in his career in 2008.
Rumors soon began circulating that Ronaldo was keen on joining Real Madrid, but Ferguson persuaded the winger to stay at United for one more season. The Portugal star helped United to another league title win before he was sold to Madrid for a then-world record transfer fee of £80m.
Ronaldo had to wait three years to win his first La Liga title as Jose Mourinho-led Real accumulated a record tally of 100 points to beat Pep Guardiola's Barcelona to the crown. Success in the Champions League arrived in 2014 when Real won a record 10th European Cup by beating local rivals Atletico Madrid in the final. Two more European Cup wins followed under the leadership of Zinedine Zidane, while the Frenchman also led Madrid to their first league title in five years in the 2016/17 season.
On a personal front, Ronaldo scored in excess of 50 goals in six straight seasons between 2010 and 2016, including a remarkable tally of 61 in the 2014/15 campaign. He overtook Raul as Real's all-time record goal scorer at the start of the 2015/16 season. The forward won four more Ballon d'Or awards – in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017 respectively – equaling Barcelona rival Lionel Messi's tally of five.
Now in his ninth season at Real, Ronaldo continues to average over a goal a game in Spain. He has scored an extraordinary 443 goals in 429 appearances across all competitions for the Spanish giants as of March 2018.
Cristiano Ronaldo fact file
- Full name: Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro
- Date of birth: February 5, 1985
- Place of birth: Funchal, Madeira
- Citizenship: Portuguese
- Residence: Madrid, Spain
- Clubs represented: Sporting Lisbon, Manchester United, Real Madrid
- 2017 earnings: $93m
- Agent: Jorge Mendes
- Marital status: Single
- Partner: Georgina Rodriguez
- Children: 4