This name uses Portuguese naming customs; the first or maternal family name is Santos and the second or paternal family name is Aveiro.
Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro, OIH, (Portuguese pronunciation: [kɾɨʃtiˈɐnu ʁuˈnaɫdu]; born 5 February 1985), commonly known as Cristiano Ronaldo, is a Portuguese footballer who plays as a winger or a forward for Spanish La Liga club Real Madrid and serves as captain of the Portuguese national team. Ronaldo is the most expensive player in football history after moving from Manchester United to Real Madrid in a transfer deal worth £80 million (€94m, US$132m). In addition, his contract with Real Madrid, in which he is to be paid £11 million per year over the following six years, makes him the highest-paid football player in the world. Ronaldo holds the distinction of being the first player to win the FIFA Puskás Award, an honour handed by FIFA to the best goal of the year. He scored that goal from 40 yards out, against Porto in a UEFA Champions League quarter-final match, while still playing for Manchester United.
Ronaldo began his career as a youth player for Andorinha, where he played for two years, then moved to Nacional. In 1997, he made a move to Portuguese giants Sporting CP. Ronaldo’s precocious talent caught the attention of Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson and he signed the 18-year-old for £12.24 million in 2003. The following season, Ronaldo won his first club honour, the FA Cup, and reached the Euro 2004 final with Portugal, in which tournament he scored his first international goal.
In 2008, Ronaldo won the Champions League with United, and was named player of the tournament. He was named the FIFPro World Player of the Year and the FIFA World Player of the Year, in addition to becoming Manchester United’s first Ballon d’Or winner in 40 years. Three-time Ballon d’Or winner Johan Cruyff said in an interview on 2 April 2008, “Ronaldo is better than George Best and Denis Law, who were two brilliant and great players in the history of United.”
Ronaldo was born on 5 February 1985 in Santo António, a neighbourhood of Funchal, Madeira, the youngest child of Maria Dolores dos Santos Aveiro, a cook, and José Dinis Aveiro, a municipal gardener. His second given name, “Ronaldo”, was chosen after then-U.S. president Ronald Reagan, who was his father’s favourite actor. He has one older brother, Hugo, and two older sisters, Elma and Liliana Cátia.
At the age of eight, Ronaldo played for amateur team Andorinha, where his father was the kit man. In 1995, Ronaldo signed with local club Nacional, and, after a title-winning campaign, he went on a three-day trial with Sporting CP, who subsequently signed him for an undisclosed sum.
Ronaldo joined Sporting’s other youth players who trained at the Academia Sporting, the club’s football academy, in Alcochete. He became the only player ever to play for Sporting’s U-16, U-17, U-18, B-team, and first team, all within one season. He scored two goals in his Sporting debut against Moreirense, while featuring for Portugal in the 2002 European Under-17 Championship.
When he was 15, Ronaldo was diagnosed with a racing heart, a condition that might have forced him to give up playing football. The Sporting staff were made aware of the condition and Ronaldo’s mother gave her authorisation for him to go into hospital. While there, he had an operation in which a laser was used to cauterise the area of his heart that was causing the problem. The surgery took place in the morning and Ronaldo was discharged from hospital by the end of the afternoon; he resumed training only a few days later.
He was first spotted by then-Liverpool manager Gérard Houllier at the age of 16, but Liverpool declined to take him on because they decided he was too young and needed some time to develop his skills. However, he came to the attention of Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson in the summer of 2003, when Sporting defeated United 3–1 in the inauguration of the Estádio José Alvalade in Lisbon. Ronaldo’s performance impressed the Manchester United players, who urged Ferguson to sign him.
Ronaldo became Manchester United’s first-ever Portuguese player when he signed for €15 million (£12.24 million) after the 2002–03 season. He requested the number 28 (his number at Sporting), as he did not want the pressure of living up to the expectation linked to the number 7 shirt, which had previously been worn by players such as George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, and David Beckham. “After I joined, the manager asked me what number I’d like. I said 28. But Ferguson said ‘No, you’re going to have No. 7,’ and the famous shirt was an extra source of motivation. I was forced to live up to such an honour.”
Ronaldo made his team debut as a 60th-minute substitute in a 4–0 home victory over Bolton Wanderers. He scored his first goal for Manchester United with a free kick in a 3–0 win over Portsmouth on 1 November 2003. Ronaldo ended his first season in English football by scoring the opening goal in United’s 3-0 FA Cup final victory over Millwall
He scored United’s 1000th Premier League goal on 29 October 2005 in a 4–1 loss to Middlesbrough. He scored ten goals in all competitions, and fans voted him to his first FIFPro Special Young Player of the Year award in 2005.
Ronaldo won his second trophy in English football in the 2005-06 season, scoring the third goal in Manchester United’s 4-0 Football League Cup final victory over Wigan Athletic.
The 2006-2007 season proved to be the breakout year for Ronaldo, as he broke the 20 goal barrier for the first time and picked up his first league title with Manchester United.
In November and December 2006, Ronaldo received consecutive Barclays Player of the Month honours, becoming only the third player in Premier League history to do so after Dennis Bergkamp in 1997 and Robbie Fowler in 1996. He scored his 50th Manchester United goal against city rivals Manchester City on 5 May 2007 as United claimed their first Premier League title in four years, and he was voted into his second consecutive FIFPro Special Young Player of the Year award at the end of the year.
Despite rumours circulating in March 2007 that Real Madrid were willing to pay an unprecedented €80 million (£54 million) for Ronaldo, he signed a five-year, £120,000-a-week (£31 million total) extension with United on 13 April, making him the highest-paid player in team history.
Ronaldo amassed a host of personal awards for the season. He won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and PFA Young Player of the Year awards, joining Andy Gray (in 1977) as the only players to receive this honour. In April, he completed the treble by winning the PFA Fans’ Player of the Year. Ronaldo was also one of eight Manchester United players named in the 2006–07 PFA Premier League Team of the Year.
Ronaldo’s 2007–08 season began with a red card for a headbutt on Portsmouth player Richard Hughes during United’s second match of the season, for which he was punished with a three-match ban. Ronaldo said he had “learned a lot” from the experience and would not let players “provoke” him in the future. After scoring the only goal in a Champions League away match against Sporting, Ronaldo also scored the injury-time winner in the return fixture as Manchester United topped their Champions League group.
He finished as the runner-up to Kaká for the 2007 Ballon d’Or, and was third in the running for the FIFA World Player of the Year award, behind Kaká and Lionel Messi.
Ronaldo scored his first hat trick for Manchester United in a 6–0 win against Newcastle United at Old Trafford on 12 January 2008, bringing Manchester United up to the top of the Premier League table. He scored his twenty-third league goal of the season in a 2–0 win against Reading, equalling his entire total for the 2006–07 season. During a 1–1 Champions League first knockout round draw against Lyon on 20 February, an unidentified Lyon supporter continuously aimed a green laser at Ronaldo and United teammate Nani, prompting an investigation by UEFA. One month later, Lyon were fined CHF5,000 (£2,427) for the incident.
On 19 March 2008, Ronaldo captained United for the first time in his career in a home win over Bolton, scoring both goals in the 2–0 victory. The second of the goals was his 33rd of the campaign, which set a new club single-season scoring record by a midfielder and thus topped George Best’s forty-year-old total of 32 goals in the 1967–68 season. Ronaldo scored another brace in a 4–0 win over Aston Villa on 29 March, which at the time gave him 35 goals in 37 domestic and European matches as both a starter and substitute. Ronaldo’s scoring streak was rewarded with his becoming the first winger to win the 2007–08 European Golden Shoe, finishing eight points ahead of Mallorca’s Dani Güiza.
In the 2007–08 Champions League final on 21 May against league rivals Chelsea, Ronaldo scored the opening goal after 26 minutes, which was negated by a Chelsea equaliser in the 45th minute as the match ended 1–1 after extra time. His misfire in the penalty shoot-out put Chelsea in position to win the trophy, but John Terry shot wide right after slipping on the pitch surface, and Manchester United emerged victorious 6–5 on penalties. Ronaldo was named the UEFA Fans’ Man of the Match, and wrapped up the campaign with a career-high 42 goals in all competitions, falling four short of Denis Law’s team-record mark of 46 in the 1963–64 season.
On 5 June 2008, Sky Sports reported that Ronaldo had expressed an interest in moving to Real Madrid if they offered him the same amount of money the team had allegedly promised him earlier in the year. Manchester United filed a tampering complaint with FIFA on 9 June over Madrid’s alleged pursuit of Ronaldo, but FIFA declined to take any action. Speculation that a transfer would happen continued until 6 August, when Ronaldo confirmed that he would stay at United for at least another year.
Ronaldo underwent ankle surgery at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam on 7 July. He returned to action on 17 September in United’s UEFA Champions League goalless group-stage draw with Villarreal as a substitute for Park Ji-Sung, and scored his first overall goal of the season in a 3–1 League Cup third round win over Middlesbrough on 24 September.
In a 5–0 win over Stoke City on 15 November 2008, Ronaldo scored his 100th and 101st goals in all competitions for Manchester United, both from free kicks. The goals also meant that Ronaldo had now scored against each of the other 19 teams in the Premier League at the time. On 2 December, Ronaldo became Manchester United’s first Ballon d’Or recipient since George Best in 1968. He finished with 446 points, 165 ahead of runner-up Lionel Messi. He was awarded the Silver Ball after finishing with two goals as United won the Club World Cup on 19 December.
On 8 January 2009, Ronaldo was uninjured in a single-car accident in which he wrote off his Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano in a tunnel along the A538 near Manchester Airport. A breathalyser test he gave to police officers at the scene was negative, and he attended training later that morning. Four days later, he became the first Premier League player ever to be named the FIFA World Player of the Year, in addition to being the first Portuguese player to win the award since Luís Figo in 2001.
Ronaldo scored his first Champions League goal of the season, and first since the final against Chelsea, in a 2–0 victory over Internazionale that sent United into the quarter-finals. In the second leg against Porto, Ronaldo scored a 40-yard game-winning goal as United advanced to the semi-finals. He later called it the best goal he had ever scored. Ronaldo participated in his second consecutive Champions League final, but made little impact in United’s 2–0 loss to Barcelona. He finished with 53 appearances in all competitions, which was four higher than the previous year, but scored sixteen fewer goals (26) than his career-best total of 42 from the previous season.
On 11 June, Manchester United accepted an unconditional offer of £80 million from Real Madrid for Ronaldo after it was revealed that he again had expressed his desire to leave the club. It was confirmed by a representative of the Glazer family that the sale was fully condoned by Ferguson. When Ronaldo had eventually completed his transfer to Real, he expressed his gratitude towards Ferguson 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.”
On 26 June 2009, Real Madrid confirmed that Ronaldo would join the club on 1 July 2009 from Manchester United for £80 million, after agreeing terms and signing a six-year contract. Ronaldo’s contract is worth €11 million per year and it has a €1 billion buy-out clause. He was presented to the world media as a Real Madrid player on 6 July, where he was handed the number 9 jersey. The shirt was presented to him by Madrid legend Alfredo di Stéfano. Ronaldo was welcomed by 80,000 fans at his presentation at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, surpassing Diego Maradona’s record of 75,000 fans when he was presented in Italy, after he was transferred from Barcelona to Napoli in 1984.
Ronaldo made his Madrid debut on 21 July in a 1–0 win over Shamrock Rovers. His first goal came one week later with a penalty in Madrid’s 4–2 LDU Quito. On 29 August, Ronaldo capped his La Liga debut with a goal, scoring Real’s second from the penalty spot in a 3–2 home win against Deportivo La Coruña. On 15 September, Ronaldo scored two free-kicks in a 5-2 away victory over Zürich, his first Champions League goals for Real. He broke a Madrid club record when he scored in a league match against Villarreal and thus became the first ever player to score in his first four La Liga appearances.
An ankle injury suffered on 10 October, while Ronaldo was on international duty with Portugal against Hungary, kept him out until 25 November, which in turn caused him to miss both of Madrid’s Champions League group stage matches against Milan. Ronaldo made his first post-injury start in a 1–0 El Clásico defeat to Barcelona on 29 November. On 6 December, he was sent off for the first time in his Madrid career in Madrid’s 4–2 victory against Almería, a match which also saw him miss a penalty. He was carded first for removing his shirt during a goal celebration, then for kicking out at an opponent three minutes later. Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuaín scored 53 league goals during the course of the season and became Real’s highest scoring league duo in their history.
With the departure of Raúl during the summer of 2010, Ronaldo was handed the number 7 jersey. On 23 October 2010, Ronaldo scored four goals against Racing Santander, the most goals he has ever scored in a single match. This completed a goalscoring run of six consecutive matches (3 La Liga, 1 Champions League, 2 international) in which Ronaldo scored in each match, totalling eleven goals, which is the most Ronaldo has scored in a single month. His final match of the year saw him score a hat-trick on a 8-0 trashing of Levante in the Copa del Rey.
Ronaldo began the 2011 with a very promising outlook, specially since Real Madrid acknowledge him to have broken many goalscoring records, prevously settled and held by classic players such as Di Stéfano, Hugo Sánchez or Alday. His year took-off by scoring two vital goals on a tight 3-2 victory over Getafe. He then consolidated his massive performance by scoring a hat-trick and assisting Kaká to score his first league goal after his return from injury, on a 4-2 victory over Villareal on January 9. One game away from the middle of the season, Ronaldo held very clear perspectives of breaking Telmo Zarra and Hugo Sánchez’s record of 38 League goals in a single season, since he was the league’s top scorer with 22 goals, even above Lionel Messi.
Ronaldo earned his first cap for Portugal in a 1–0 victory against Kazakhstan on 20 August 2003. He was called up for Euro 2004, scoring in a 2–1 group stage loss to eventual champions Greece and in a 2–1 semi-final win over the Netherlands. He was named in the team of the tournament despite finishing with only two goals. He also represented Portugal at the 2004 Summer Olympics.
2006 World Cup
Ronaldo was the second-highest scorer in FIFA World Cup qualification in the European zone with seven goals, and scored his first World Cup goal against Iran with a penalty kick.
During a quarter-final match against England on 1 July 2006, Ronaldo’s United teammate Wayne Rooney was sent off for stamping on Portugal defender Ricardo Carvalho. The English media speculated that Ronaldo had influenced referee Horacio Elizondo’s decision by aggressively complaining, after which he was seen in replays winking at the Portuguese bench following Rooney’s dismissal. After the match, Ronaldo insisted that Rooney was a friend and that he was not pushing for Rooney to be sent off. On 4 July, Elizondo clarified that the red card was due to Rooney’s infraction and not the fracas between Rooney and Ronaldo that followed.
The angry reaction from the English press caused Ronaldo to consider leaving United, and he allegedly told Spanish sports daily Marca that he wished to move to Real Madrid. In response to the speculation, Ferguson sent Portuguese assistant manager Carlos Queiroz to speak to Ronaldo in attempt to change his mind, a sentiment that was shared by Rooney. Ronaldo stayed, and signed his new five-year extension in April 2007.
Ronaldo was booed during Portugal’s semi-final defeat to France, and missed out on the competition’s Best Young Player award due to a negative e-mail campaign from England fans. Though the online vote only affected the nomination process, FIFA’s Technical Study Group awarded the honour to Germany’s Lukas Podolski, citing Ronaldo’s behaviour as a factor in the decision.
One day after his 22nd birthday, Ronaldo captained Portugal for the first time in a friendly against Brazil on 6 February 2007. This move was in honour of Portuguese Football Federation president Carlos Silva, who had died two days earlier. Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari explained, “Mr. Silva asked me to make [Ronaldo] captain as a gesture… [he] is too young to be captain, but Mr. Silva asked me, and now he is no longer with us.”
Ronaldo scored eight goals in Portugal’s UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, behind Poland’s Ebi Smolarek, but finished with only one goal in the tournament as Portugal were eliminated in the quarter-finals by Germany. When Carlos Queiroz was named Portugal’s new coach in July 2008, he appointed Ronaldo as team captain.
2010 World Cup
On 15 June 2010, in Portugal’s opening 2010 FIFA World Cup match against Côte d’Ivoire, Ronaldo was tackled by right-back Guy Demel, which led to an argument and both being booked. The next day, Portugal contacted FIFA to suggest that Ronaldo’s yellow card be rescinded since he was “pulled into” the confrontation after having already moved away from the spot where he was tackled, but the appeal was rejected.
Ronaldo failed to make an impact in the World Cup; after going scoreless in the qualifiers, his only goal came in Portugal’s 7–0 group stage thrashing of North Korea on 21 June, which marked his first international goal in sixteen months. Portugal were ultimately eliminated by Spain in the round of sixteen.
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