Cristiano Ronaldo
© AFP

Football and stardom have always come naturally to Cristiano Ronaldo, who was named in honour of former US President Ronald Reagan, his father’s favourite actor.

In his formative years Ronaldo began showing the talent that would eventually make him one of the greatest players in the world. Yet in football, as in other walks of life, talent is not always everything, as he showed before even reaching his teenage years.

After starting out with a small club by the name of Clube Futebol Andorinha on his native Madeira, Ronaldo joined local outfit Nacional before taking on the biggest challenge of his young life at the age of only 11.

That challenge involved him leaving his home island and making the journey to mainland Portugal all on his own to join Sporting Clube de Portugal’s famous academy. Though far from the bosom of his family, Ronaldo worked tirelessly on his game and made history at the Lisbon club by becoming the first player ever to run out for their U-16, U-17, U-18, reserve and first teams in the same season.

He marked his competitive debut for Os Leões by scoring twice and it was clear, even at this early stage of his career, that his future would lie outside Portugal.

When Sporting entertained Manchester United in match held to inaugurate the Estadio Jose de Alvalade, the then 18-year-old Ronaldo turned in such a compelling performance that the watching Sir Alex Ferguson was convinced he had found David Beckham’s successor.

The Portuguese displayed a voracious appetite for goalscoring during his time in England and such was his princely form for United that it came as no surprise when he moved to Real Madrid in 2009 for a world-record transfer fee.

In the meantime, he established himself as one of the leading lights of Portugal’s national team, and has since gone on to become his country’s joint-leading scorer of all time, pulling level with Pauleta on 47 goals.

As well as appearing at UEFA EURO 2004, 2008 and 2012, he represented his country at the FIFA World Cup™ finals in 2006 and 2010, and won the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2008. The following year he collected the inaugural FIFA Puskás Award.

Like so many other years in his glittering career, 2013 brought a glut of goals for Cristiano Ronaldo, who is now savouring his second FIFA Ballon d’Or award.