WITH Manchester United,Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo was named best forward and player in the 2008 Champions League tournament.
That season he finished as top goalscorer as well as winning the European Golden Shoe, becoming the first winger to do so, while also collecting the Premier League’s Golden Boot award.
During his time at Old Trafford, he won three of the four main PFA and FWA trophies (missing out as the PFA Young Player of the Year) and was named World Soccer and Onze d’Or Footballer of the Year as well as the FIFA World Player of the Year, while in addition he became Manchester United’s first Ballon d’Or winner in 40 years.
Besides all this, Ronaldo holds the distinction of being the first player to win the FIFA Puskás Award, an honour presented by FIFA to the player who, in their mind, scores the best goal of the year, this being his breath-taking effort from 40 yards against FC Porto in a Champions League quarter-final encounter.
Three-time Ballon d’Or winner Johan Cruyff said in an interview in April 2008: “Ronaldo is better than George Best and Denis Law, who were two brilliant and great players in the history of United.”
That’s some praise. Madrid transfer On 11 June 2009, Manchester United accepted an unconditional offer of €91.2 million (around £80m) from Real Madrid for Ronaldo after expressing his desire to leave Old Trafford.
It was confirmed by a representative of the Glazer family that the sale was fully condoned by Ferguson.
After Ronaldo had completed his transfer to Real, he expressed his gratitude towards Sir Alex for helping him develop as a player, saying: “He’s been my father in sport, one of the most important factors and most influential in my career.” Ronaldo agreed a six-year contract, worth €11 million per year, with Real, and it has a €1 billion buy-out clause written into it.
Duly presented to the world media as a Real Madrid player four weeks after leaving Old Trafford, he was handed the number 9 jersey, presented to him by former legend Alfredo Di Stéfano in front of a staggering crowd of 80,000 inside the Bernabéu Stadium, surpassing Diego Maradona’s record when he was paraded in front of 75,000 fans in Italy in 1984 following his transfer from Barcelona to Napoli. Ronaldo made his debut for Real on 21 July in a 1–0 win over Shamrock Rovers; his first goal came one week later with a penalty in a 4–2 win over LDU Quito and at the end of August, he capped his La Liga debut with a penalty in a 3–2 home win against Deportivo La Coruña.
Since then, the Portuguese genius has continued to score goals, many of them stunning efforts. He became the first ever player to score in his first four La Liga appearances.
He was sent-off for the first time as a Real player in a 4–2 victory over Almería – carded first for removing his shirt during a goal celebration, followed by a second yellow for kicking out at an opponent three minutes later.
By Tony Matthews, author of more than 100 published football books