Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best players to ever grace a football pitch.
His exploits over the course of the last decade have gone down in history with the Portuguese goal-machine securing domestic titles in England, Spain and Italy while he’s also added five Champions Leagues and five Ballon d’Or awards to his repertoire.
Ronaldo’s rise to greatness began at Manchester United when a scrawny teenager from Portugal transformed himself into the world’s best player before signing for Real Madrid.
During his time in Manchester, Ronaldo played alongside some greats of the game including Wayne Rooney, Roy Keane and Rio Ferdinand, with the latter captaining the side to the 2008 Champions League title, the first of Ronaldo’s five.
Ferdinand recalled his first memory of seeing Ronaldo play while taking part in COPA90‘s ‘Stay Home. Play Together’ YouTube series.
The former England international recalled how former Irish international captain John O’Shea almost needed an oxygen tank after first crossing paths with a teenage Ronaldo in a pre-season friendly with his boyhood club, Sporting Lisbon.
“We played against Sporting Lisbon to open their stadium,” Ferdinand began.
“I played and it’s a funny story because John O’Shea played right-back against him and we didn’t know who Ronaldo was.
“We missed out on signing Ronaldinho so we were a bit deflated at the time. So we get in at half-time and John O’Shea must have had an oxygen tank next to him. He was in bits. He was sitting there [demonstrates heavy panting].
“We said, ‘Sheasy, get close to him!’ and he just couldn’t even answer us.
“And, to be fair, me, Butty and Scholesy were going, ‘Mate, this kid is unbelievable, we’ve got to sign him.’ We got onto the coach and we’re delayed by about an hour and a half and everyone’s going: ‘What’s going on? We’ve got to get back to England’ and they were doing the deal upstairs to try and sign him.
“It was a mad performance and you saw straight away that will be a world’s best player.”
Ferdinand went on to claim that Ronaldo was the first player he saw build a team around himself.
“He was the first player I ever saw who built a team around himself – a nutritionist, his own physio.
“He lived next door to me so I would go in his house sometimes and I’d go, ‘Bruv, what are all these people doing in your house? Are you not gonna relax?’
“He says, ‘That’s my physio, that’s my sports scientist, that’s the masseuse’ and I’m thinking: ‘Jesus, this guy is nuts!’ He was investing the money in himself because he knew.”
Money well spent so!