Cristiano Ronaldo has enjoyed a remarkable rise from humble beginnings to become one of the greatest footballers of all-time.
Indeed, the 34-year-old superstar has come a long way from his days growing up as the youngest child in a humble family on the Portuguese island of Madeira.
His mother Dolores was a cook while his father Dinis was a local gardener – and a young Ronaldo spent his early years in Santo Antonio, a neighbourhood considered one of the poorest communities of the capital Funchal.
It was Ronaldo’s dad, who tragically passed away when the footballer was just 20 after a battle with alcoholism, who first introduced him to football while he worked part-time as a kitman at local club Andorinha.
Dinis used his connections with the club and asked Fernao Barros Sousa, a player at Andorinha who had previously played for the island’s biggest club, Nacional if he would be Ronaldo’s godfather.
In an interview last year, Sousa revealed how Ronaldo would accompany his father before he eventually ended up turning out for Andorinha’s youth side.
Ronaldo went on to play for Nacional’s youth team before he was eventually picked up by Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon in what was his first breakthrough in European football.
And it was clear to Sousa that the Portuguese forward had something special about him from an early age.
He told Goal: “When he was little, he was just like other kids.
“But he had something that was different from the others and that was that he played a lot of football. Even from a young age. When the other kids were studying, he put his studies on the back seat in order to play football.
“You could see it when his father was kitman with Andorinha. He had the bags with the footballs and Cristiano would be with his father, with a ball in hand and playing with the ball.
“He tried to dribble and obviously he copied the older players. He did that a lot.”
Sousa wasn’t the only one who was impressed by Ronaldo – his former junior team-mate Ricardo Santos was always in awe of how grounded Ronaldo was.
“We were eight, nine years old,” Santos, who has since gone on to manage Andorinha, told Goal. “And at that time, Cristiano Ronaldo was already a great player.
“What I remember about him is that he was a humble kid. And when he didn’t have the ball, he cried. When the team-mates fought, he cried.
“But he was already a good player. He was faster than average, he already scored a lot of goals and he had great dribbling skills.”
Little did they know at the time, but Ronaldo would go on to enjoy a glittering career that has seen him win five Ballon d’Or crowns.
He’s also won three Premier League titles with Manchester United, four Champions League crowns with Real Madrid and the Euro 2016 trophy with Portugal.
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