In 2009, Cristiano Ronaldo looked set to achieve his boyhood dream of playing in the capital of Spain. The 25-year old, touted as the best player in the world joined Real Madrid in a world-record transfer. Since then, he has become one of the best footballers in the history of the sport.
Now At 36, as Ronaldo returns ‘home’ he is as hungry as ever for glory.
Cristiano Ronaldo Returns To Restore Glory
In 2002, a curly-haired 17-year old with a blonde forelock broke into the Sporting Lisbon first-team in a game against Moreirense. With a slim look & the stature of an average person, it was safe to say that the kid from the small island of Madeira was not imposing enough.
To everyone’s surprise, his appearance held no compatibility with ability as he seamlessly parried the ball past the opposition with frightening pace & bone-crunching step-overs before finding the back of the net twice. The whole of Lisbon took notice as the commentators yelled the name “Cristiano Ronaldo” for the first time. Soon, the teenager became the talk of the town.
Europe On High-Alert
Clubs across Europe launched a scouting mission in an attempt to captivate the youngster to pen a deal. The race featured Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, & more. Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger spearheaded the race & even met him at the club training ground before the transfer. The speculation did not torment Ronaldo’s performances.
In August 2003, Sporting Lisbon inaugurated José Alvalade Stadium before beating the Manchester United 3-0 in a pre-season friendly game. Manchester United’s manager Sir Alex Ferguson entered the dressing room after the game, only to find the United players convincing him to complete the signing of the young Ronaldo.
Unscathed by the loss, the United boss ruthlessly stood behind the Sporting officials & was determined to complete the signing before his return flight to Manchester. After spending several hours negotiating in the capital city of Portugal, a deal worth £12.24 million was agreed.
Arrival & Criticism
In less than a week after the transfer, the 18-year old graced the Old Trafford pitch for the first time while sporting the legendary No.7 shirt (worn by the greatest United players, namely George Best, Eric Cantona, & David Beckham). Despite registering no goals or assists, the Old Trafford audience was exhilarated by Ronaldo’s repeated attempts at strolling past players with flair & finesse.
The skills & flair did not set everyone alight for long as he would cling on to the ball at his feet for longer than expected. It was not long before the winger was labeled “a Prima donna” or just selfish
A pundit’s early views on the boy in question perfectly encapsulate how many felt about him. He said- “This boy is a disgrace”
Football meets Flamboyance-
In the forthcoming years, Ronaldo’s numbers on the pitch were getting better but it was a matter of “too little & too little.” When everyone thought that the die was cast, Sir Alex Ferguson refused to give up & had even done the unthinkable of selling David Beckham in 2003. In the 2006/07 season, the player scored a breathtaking 23 goals & 22 assists to leave all his critics gasping for air.
This started a journey of flashy brilliance, hard-hitting headers, mouth-watering shots, knuckleball free-kicks, & ice-cold penalties.
In short, it was a journey where football met flamboyance.
In the summer of 2008, the mighty Manchester United had already finished another fruitful Premier League campaign that resulted in glory. The club aspired to win the Champions League for the first time since 1999. They reached the final, but their domestic rivals Chelsea FC stood in the way. The London-based club had gained a foothold in the competition after the takeover by the Russian Billionaire Roman Abramovic in 2003. The side was thirsty for glory & conspired to topple the giants of Manchester.
Ronaldo, the focal point of United’s attack, headed the ball off a cross on a rainy night in Moscow to give the Reds a 1-0 lead. Chelsea’s Frank Lampard scored the equalizer minutes later. The inseparable duo clashed in a penalty shoot-out after the extra-time ended in a stalemate.
The nerve-wracking shoot-out took a turn for the worse when Ronaldo missed his penalty. He was instantly consoled by his teammate & Centre-Back Nemanja Vidic.
One of the most iconic moments soon followed when Chelsea captain John Terry slipped & hit the post to make it even.
An intense tug-of-war ensued as the first to miss would lose the battle. Manchester United took the lead as the Moscow rain got heavier. Chelsea’s Nicolas Anelka was next in line for the penalty & did not look entirely optimistic. He punted the ball to the right-hand corner & it ultimately deflected off of the giant hands of Manchester United goalkeeper Van Der Saar. The celebrations were in the air as Ronaldo fell to the floor with tears rolling down his eyes.
The Boy Turns Into A Man
A year on from the epic showdown in Russia, doubts were surrounding Ronaldo’s future at the club. Real Madrid was inching closer to a sensational deal worth a world-record fee. The Ballon D’Or winner decided to move to Madrid to fulfill the boyhood dream of wearing the proud jersey. In the following years, he returned to Old Trafford for the first time & was treated with an overzealous crowd. Despite the support of the partisan audience, Ronaldo acted professionally & grabbed a goal that he later refused to celebrate. This moment is a testament to the feelings of the fanbase, which is intact even to this day.
Cristiano Ronaldo Returns To Restore Glory
The emotions of the fanbase has played a role in the return of Portugal’s all-time leading top scorer, who is expected to make his return in the upcoming fixture against Newcastle United. The manager & former teammate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has already conveyed his content in the newest acquisition & added – “He’s not been signed to sit on the bench.”
The wake-up call is a reminder of the task at hand, as the club looks to restore glory at Old Trafford for the first time in 8 years.
Main Image Credit