Cristiano Ronaldo has a mind-boggling 260 million followers on Instagram and is the most idolised footballer on social media, no player boasts bigger numbers. However, not everybody is a fan. Of course, he doesn’t have many supporters in Barcelona thanks to his success with Real Madrid and football lovers in Milan and Rome won’t enjoy what he’s done for Juventus either.
Then there are the fans in England. They will remember his stunning 42 goals in 49 games as Manchester United won the Premier League title and Champions League in 2008, but they’ll also recall his dramatic tumbles when he first arrived at Old Trafford. They’ll scoff too at a perceived arrogance as he whips out his bulging biceps after yet another strike.
For Cristiano, that ‘Flash Harry’ persona and brash confidence he displays will always mean he has a legion of naysayers who like to discredit him and downplay his many achievements. But since making his debut for Sporting in his native Portugal 19 years ago he has matured into a supreme role model. As he turns 36 today, let’s put some serious respect on the name of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Take the sheer fact he is able to compete with Lionel Messi for the biggest club and individual honours on the planet. The Argentine is arguably the most naturally gifted sports star on the planet, not just in 2021 but ever. For Ronaldo to be up there with Messi, with many claiming he is every bit as good as the Barca star just proves the work and dedication the Portuguese has put in. Of course, Ronaldo is supremely talented too but one assumes he’s honed and practiced his skills in a more thorough way than Messi has had to. What better person to look up to for young kids and adults than a man who wants to be the best and has pushed himself to the limit to be a constant name on people’s lips?
For club and country, CR7 has scored more than 25 goals in each of the last 15 seasons. He pushes himself to the brink in order to be the greatest. In fact, he has a greater goalscoring ratio post-30 than he did in his twenties. Like a fine wine, he gets better with age. Ronaldo wants the gongs, he wants the adulation and he wants to be remembered in the annals of football history. Thousands before him will have wanted the same, but he puts dreams and ambitions into action and makes them a reality. Whether it’s on the training pitch or in the gym, he keeps going and is fiercely disciplined. Those goal records and muscles don’t come by accident.
Then there are his leadership skills. Sure, he leads by example with his prowess in front of goal, but it’s that desire, that will to win which must really get the best out of his teammates. Spearheading Portugal’s Euro 2016 victory, he urged Joao Moutinho to take a penalty in the dramatic shootout victory over Poland in the quarter-finals. Seemingly nervous to put his hand up, Moutinho was cajoled by the skipper to stand up and be counted. In a stirring rallying cry Ronaldo told Moutinho in no uncertain terms that he had to take a kick, but he wasn’t controversial or overbearing; instead he bigged Moutinho up, gave him his unwavering support and made him believe. The playmaker stepped up and slotted home.
Then there is his caring side. There are countless clips of him sharing jokes with young mascots who are in complete awe of the man. He is also an ambassador for UNICEF, Save the Children and World Vision, and used his famous name to help millions of people around the world. He took a wage cut at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic at a reported cost of £3.8m - sure he can afford it maybe, but not everyone would be so willing. He also donated £1m to hospitals in Portugal. The Juventus talisman also regularly donates blood, saying in 2015: "Each donation can benefit up to three people in emergency situations and for long-term medical treatments... That’s why I am enthusiastic... to the importance of blood donation and to encourage people around the world to become lifelong blood donors and help save lives." What a great example.
He is loyal, he is a fighter and he is a winner. Every budding footballer should aspire to be exactly like Cristiano Ronaldo. A showman, an entertainer, a warrior, a pro of principles and a truly spectacular competitor. For all the bravado, there is a great man underneath it all and now that he’s older and still producing on and off the field, it shows itself all of the time.