Sometimes, a player comes along that changes the face of their sport. Tiger Woods did it with golf. Venus Williams did it with tennis. Michael Jordan did it with basketball. And in football, the face of modern success has been Cristiano Ronaldo. Along with Lionel Messi, the Portuguese forward has been the best player of the past fifteen years. For those who have watched his career unfold from the beginning, he is a living legend, a player that has won more individual and collective trophies than virtually every other player couldn’t dream of.
He’s won the Ballon d’Or (awarded to the best player in the world) five times and won a staggering thirty-one trophies during his career. Even people who have no interest in football have heard of Cristiano Ronaldo (he’s one of those athletes that transcend their sport). And everyone who does football knows just how special a player he is.
In this blog, we’re going to run through everything you need to know about the footballing career of Cristiano, including his international career with Portugal and club careers with Sporting Lisbon, Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Juventus.
His International Career
Legends win international tournaments. And what’s remarkable is that Cristiano Ronaldo has been near the trophy of many international competitions during his career. In 2004, when he was just 19, he appeared in the Euro Championship Final, though eventually lost out to surprise winner Greece.
And at the 2006 World Cup, Ronaldo’s performances led Portugal to the semi-finals. Things started to go slightly downhill after that tournament. By 2010, Ronaldo was the star — not just of the Portugal team he captained, but of world football. And for one of the few times in his career, the pressure was too much.
It was at the 2016 Euro Championship that Ronaldo cemented his legacy as a bona fide football legend. He was the captain and talisman for the Portugal team that won the tournament, scoring goals and inspiring his teammates from the first match through to the final; even though he limped off injured in that match, he continued to inspire from the touchlines.
And what about the future? The 2020 Euro Championship may well be Ronaldo’s last international tournament. Portugal is not among the favorites to claim the trophy, but Ronaldo is full of surprises. His tenacious desire to win might mean that it’s worthwhile making the most of free bet offers to back the Seleção for glory. You wouldn’t put it past Cristiano! One key factor in the Messi v Ronaldo ‘who’s better’ debate is that while Messi has more or less failed to live up to his potential with his native Argentina, Ronaldo has brought success for his home country.
His Club Career
Ronaldo’s international successes came later on in his career. But he was a star player at a club level from pretty much the first kick. He began his career at Sporting Lisbon and quickly rose to become a key player for the Portuguese side. His big moment came after a game with Manchester United. While many of the world’s biggest clubs were interested in signing Ronaldo, Manchester United were the most eager. Indeed, it’s said that it was the Manchester United players that played against Ronaldo in that game that recommended to Sir Alex Ferguson that the club sign him after he played so well against them.
He became a key player for Manchester United during his early seasons at Old Trafford. Indeed, almost from the moment he arrived, he played in every game for which he was available. His goal scoring record was good but unremarkable during his teenage years, as is often the case. Once he was more robust, however, he became a machine. Though he was playing in a very good Manchester United side, Ronaldo was the star. From 2007 onwards, he would win games almost single-handedly, scoring many goals. It wasn’t just the number of goals he scored, however, but the variety. He’d score headers, penalties, free kicks, regular strikes, tap-ins — everything. He was becoming a complete player.
With Manchester United, he won three league titles, an FA Cup, a Champions League, and two League Cups, among others.
In 2009, Ronaldo moved to Real Madrid for a world-record fee of £80 million. While it had taken him some time to get up to speed with the intensity of the Premier League, when he arrived at Real Madrid, he was a complete player and scored the goals to prove it. He averaged a goal a game during the nine seasons he was at the Bernabeu and, in a few seasons, even scored more than one goal a game, on average.
At Real Madrid, the trophies just kept on coming. He won two La Liga titles, two Copa Del Rey trophies, and four Champions League medals — including three in a row. As was the case with Manchester United, at Real Madrid, he had a stellar team of superstars around him, yet Ronaldo still shone the brightest. In 438 games for Real Madrid, he scored 450 goals (which is simply mind-blowing), becoming the club’s all-time top goal scorer. It is a record that’s highly unlikely to ever be broken.
In 2018, Ronaldo finally waved goodbye to Madrid and moved to Italy to play with Juventus. He essentially carried on as usual, scoring goal after goal. He won the league title the first two seasons that he played for the club, as well as two Supercoppa Italiana trophies.
And what about the future? At 36, the end of Ronaldo’s career is in sight. He can’t go on forever! Given his tenacity to win, it’s possible that he’ll move into management. But no matter what happens from this moment on, Ronaldo has already cemented his legacy as an all-time footballing great.
Along with Messi, he’s the best player in a generation. His mix of skill, physical prowess, and sheer will to win has allowed him to craft a career that only comes around once in a lifetime.