It was on the 6th of August in 2003 when Manchester United travelled to Portugal for a preseason friendly against Sporting Clube de Portugal.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side was beaten 3-1 on that specific day, but it was not the result that caught the eye of newspaper headline writers the next day. It was the fact that then Manchester United right-back, John O’Shea, was given a tough time by a young Portuguese player who went by the name of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ferguson refused to leave the country without sorting out a deal for the 18-year-old and eventually a £12.24 million deal was agreed to bring his talent to Old Trafford.
Ronaldo is mainly known for footballing activities. His non-stop goals, hat-tricks, trophies and broken records for both club and country are what make him the man he is today, but it does not just stop there. There is so much more to the Real Madrid man that just goals and awards.
But what makes him so popular with the masses? Why is he idolised by fans from other countries? Here, we take a look at why Ronaldo is such a well-known figure in the world.
5 Incredible achievements with club and country
When he first arrived in Manchester, nobody knew of him. Nobody knew that he would become the best player in the world. However, that soon changed.
Ronaldo netted 84 goals in 196 appearances for the Red Devils, winning three Premier League titles, two League Cup titles, the FA Cup, the FA Community Shield, a UEFA Champions League, and the FIFA Club World Cup trophy with the English club.
He became the then most expensive footballer when he signed for Real Madrid, and he broke and is still breaking records which were considered to be unbreakable. Until today, he has a tally of 390 goals in the La Liga, winning a single La Liga title, two Copa del Rey competitions, a Supercopa de España, two UEFA Champions League trophies, two UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups with the Spanish giants.
Ronaldo’s personal records with Real Madrid are well worth mentioning. These include the following:
#1 Real Madrid all-time top goal scorer: 390 goals
#2 Fastest player to reach 50 league goals
#3 Fastest player to reach 100 league goals
#4 Fastest player to reach 200 official goals
#5 Fastest player to reach 250 official goals
#6 Most goals scored in seven consecutive league matches: 15 goals
#7 First player to score in eight consecutive match days
#8 Most hat-tricks in Real Madrid’s history: 38
#9 Real Madrid record goal scorer in UEFA Champions League: 78 goals
#10 Real Madrid record goal-scorer in European competitions: 80 goals
#11 Most goals scored in the UEFA Champions League: 95 goals
Ronaldo won the FIFA Player of the Year on four occasions, once with Manchester United and three times with current club Real Madrid.
For Portugal, he has found the net 68 times in 136 international matches so far. In 2016, Portugal were crowned the UEFA Euro 2016 champions and Ronaldo became the most capped player of all-time in the tournament, as well as the first player to score in four consecutive European Championship Finals.
#4 His rivalry with Lionel Messi
People refer to the El Clasico as the best match on the planet between rivals.
In a clash between two of the finest sides on planet earth, play the best players in the world today. The most expensive players are always compared and put against each other, even when there are no historic rivalries like the Real Madrid-Barcelona one.The two geniuses chase each other on and off the field.
The record broken by one is chased by the other, game after game, season after another. Below is a table which compares the main records and numbers set by each player:
The above table shows how close it is to separate the two on the football pitch, and regardless of which team or player you support, this rivalry is enjoyed and cherished by the majority of football fans. The footballing world will miss the two when the moment comes and they call it a day.
Such a rivalry must only be referred to as “clean competition” and it only helps both players to be more popular.
#3 The CR7 brand
Off the pitch, too, the name Cristiano Ronaldo is also very popular. The Portuguese star established his very own fashion brand “CR7” and is now a recognised name around the world.
His first fashion boutique under the name “CR7” was opened in the city where he was born in Portugal, Madeira, and the stores include diamond-studded belts, jeans with leather pockets and patented buckled loafers.
He also opened a museum, Museu CR7, in his hometown of Funchal, Madeira, to display trophies and memorabilia of his life and playing career.
Ronaldo has also established a strong presence within various social media platforms. He is one of the most popular sportspersons on social media and has over 200 million total followers across Facebook, Twitter,Instagram.
He is also the most followed athlete on Twitter with 50 million followers and is the most followed footballer on Instagram with 93 million followers!
#2 His willingness to help others
Being popular and making a lot of money is one of the perks of footballers, but Ronaldo hasn’t forgotten his roots and has, on many occasions, helped those in need, which has been appreciated by even rival fans.
For example, in 2009, Ronaldo donated £100,000 to the hospital that saved his mother’s life in Madeira following her battle with cancer, so that they could build a cancer centre on the island.
The Portuguese star auctioned the Golden Boot he had won in 2011 for €1.5 million and donated the proceeds to schools in Gaza.
Ronaldo is Save the Children’s global artist ambassador, through which he has funded food, clothing, and medical care for families in Aleppo and across Syria during Christmas in 2016.
He sent his support to all the suffering kids with this message: “This is for the children of Syria. We know that you have been suffering a lot. I am a very famous player, but you are the true heroes. Don’t lose your hope. The world is with you. We care about you. I am with you.”
#1 Media attention
Ronaldo rarely speaks to the media, but whenever he speaks, it is because he has something specific to say. He is one of the most popular sportspersons in the world and is always in the limelight, with the media focussing on his performances on and off the pitch, his family, his incredible physique or his charitable causes.
He does seldom use it to trade barbs with rivals, but when he does, his words are ruthless. For example, at the beginning of the 2016/17 season, Xavi Hernandez stated that Ronaldo is unlucky to have played in the same era as Leo Messi, who he claimed was the best in history.
The Portuguese hit back at the former Barcelona captain with a simple message: “I’m the most searched player on the internet. Anyone who wants free publicity or media attention talks about me. I couldn’t care less about what Xavi says about me, as he plays in Qatar or I don’t even know where.”
Ronaldo mostly uses the media to highlight causes that he cares for and uses it to help spread the message. A noble one, indeed.