Alex Ferguson brought Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United the first time around
Alex Ferguson brought Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United the first time around Image Credit: Manchester United Twitter

Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro is arguably the most famous footballer in the world, and has hit the headlines again with his — now official — return to Manchester United just before the end of the summer transfer window. Let’s chart his rise to the top:

February, 1985: Cristiano Ronaldo is born in Funchal, on the Portuguese island of Madeira.

1997: At 12 years old, Rolando’s talents were already apparent and he signed on with Portuguese giants Sporting CP after a three-day trial and moved into their academy system in Lisbon.

1999: Two years later and Ronaldo took the plunge to commit to football full-time. He quit school after he was expelled aged 14 for reportedly throwing a chair at a teacher.

2000: At the age of 15, Ronaldo was diagnosed with a condition called ‘racing heart’, which could have ended his career before it began. He underwent surgery to cauterise multiple cardiac pathways into one. He was back in training after a only a few days.

A young Cristiano Ronaldo
A young Cristiano Ronaldo Image Credit: Cristiano Ronaldo Instagram

2002: At the tender age of 16, Ronaldo impressed the coaches at Sporting so much that he was promoted to the first team. He became the first player to play for the club’s Under-16s, U17s U18s, B team and the first team in a single season.

October 2002: Ronaldo had arrived. He made his debut in the Primeira Liga against Moreirense, scoring twice in a 3-0 win. During the 2002-03 season, both Liverpool and Barcelona were taking note of the young prospect.

November 2002: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger brought him to London to discuss a possible move to the English club.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Alex Ferguson
Cristiano Ronaldo and Alex Ferguson Image Credit: Manchester United Twitter

July 2003: Ronaldo opts to move to Manchester United for 12.25 million pound, making him the most expensive teenager in English football history. He was given the No. 7 shirt — previously worn by United greats such as George Best, Eric Cantona and David Beckham.

August 2003: Ronaldo makes his Premier League bow in a 4-0 win over West Brom, coming on in the 60th minute for Nicky Butt and received a standing ovation for his performance.

August 2003: A few weeks later, Ronaldo made his first senior appearance for Portugal at the age of 18 in a 1—0 win over Kazakhstan.

Ronaldo was a clinical finisher for United

November 2003: Ronaldo scored his first United goal with a trademark free-kick in a 3—0 win over Portsmouth. He finished with four goals that season, scoring his last on the final day of the Premier League season against Aston Villa, before he received his first professional red card in the same match. He repaired the damage the following week by scoring in the FA Cup final against Millwall to claim his first major trophy.

June 2004: Ronaldo scored his first international goal for Portugal at Euro 2004, in a 2-1 loss to Greece. He finished with two goals and two assists for the tournament after Portugal again lost to Greece in the final.

February 2007: Just after his 22nd birthday, Ronaldo was promoted to Portugal captain.

May 2007: Scored the only goal in the Manchester derby, the 50th of his United career as the Old Trafford club claimed their first Premier League title in four years. Ronaldo won the Player’s Player, Fans’ Player, and Young Player of the Year awards, as well as the Football Writers’ Association’s Footballer of the Year award, becoming the first player to win all four main PFA and FWA honours. Signed five-year contract extension.

Ronaldo put his name on the map at United

January 2008: Ronaldo scored his only United hat-trick in a 6-0 win against Newcastle United.

March 2008: Ronaldo was given the captain’s armband for the first time and marked the occasion with both goals in a 2-0 win over Bolton.

May 2008: The Portuguese helped United claim the Champions League title, defeating Chelsea on penalties in then final.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored for Portugal
Cristiano Ronaldo scored for Portugal Image Credit: Reuters

June 2008: Ronaldo given the Portugal No. 7 shirt for Euro 2008. He scored eight goals in the qualification, but could only find the net once during the finals.

2009: Trophy-laden season as Ronaldo helped United win the Fifa Club World Cup, Premier League and League Cup. He also won the Ballon d’Or and Fifa World Player of the Year, along with the inaugural Fifa Puskas award for the best goal of the year — a 40-yard strike against Porto in the Champions League.

Ronaldo signs with Real Madrid

June 2009: Ronaldo decides to move on to play for boyhood heroes Real Madrid for a then record 80 million pounds.

August 2009: Ronaldo made his La Liga debut against Deportivo, scoring a penalty to make him an instant favourite with the Madrid fans. Went on to score in the next three matches.

Ronaldo was a huge success at Real

2011-12: Helped Real Madrid to their first La Liga title since 2008.

2013: Ronaldo claims his second Ballon d’Or.

2014-15: Starts another piece of history as he takes Real to the Champions League title — his second as a player. Real and Ronaldo went on to win the trophy three years in a row.

2015-16: Became Real’s all-time top scorer when he claimed 230 goals in 203 games, surpassing Raul’s record.

May 2016: Became all-time Champions League top scorer as Real defeated Atletico in the final.

July 2016: Ronaldo finally claimed silverware with his national team as Portugal claim Euro 2016, defeating France 1-0 in the final. Ronaldo was stretchered off after 25 minutes but returned to the pitch to lift the trophy.

Ronaldo became a serial Ballon d'Or winner

2016: Ronaldo won the Ballon d’Or by a record margin of 429 points ahead of Lionel Messi.

May 2017: Once again Ronaldo guides Real to the Champions League title — his fourth — defeating Juventus in the final and picks up Ballon d’Or to tie with Messi on five apiece.

May 2018: Ronaldo won his final Champions League title with Real, making him the most successful as a player — winning it in 2008, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018.

Cristiano Ronaldo - Juventus v AC Milan
Cristiano Ronaldo - Juventus v AC Milan Image Credit: AP

July 2018: After weeks of speculation, Ronaldo signed a four-year contract with Juventus for 100 million euros. Within 24 hours of the release of his No. 7 Juve shirt, 520,000 copies sold, with $62.4 million generated in a single day.

January 2019: Ronaldo claimed his first trophy with Juventus, lifting the Supercoppa Italiana, heading in the winner in the final against AC Milan.

190313 ronaldo
Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates with Emre Can after scoring their third goal. Image Credit: Reuters

May 2019: Helped Juve to the Serie A title, their eighth successive title.

2019-20: Back-to-back domestic titles as Juve make it nine-in-a-row.

2020-21: Juventus lose the Serie A title to Inter Milan, but Ronaldo took them to silverware in the Supercoppa.

Manchester United announce Cristiano Ronaldo arrival
Manchester United announce Cristiano Ronaldo arrival Image Credit: Manchester United Twitter

August 2021: Ronaldo looked to be heading to Manchester City, but a late development meant he would re-sign for Manchester United instead.