RONALDO CRISTIANO AND REAL MADRID: HIS NINE HAPPIEST YEARS

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Ronaldo in the UEFA Champions League Final, 26 May 2018, his last tournament with Real Madrid 

 

By Rose Maramba

The most famous footballer in the world at the moment (123 million likes on Facebook; 135 million followers on Instagram), Cristiano Ronaldo (5 February 1985, Madeira, Portugal), says the nine years he played at Real Madrid were the happiest of his life. But he has just left, signing on with Juventus. Doesn’t that look like too much of a good thing then? The transfer from Madrid to Turin cost a cool €100 million (US$117,145,000) though other reports peg it slightly higher.

Funny –  or is it? – but on his last days at Real he was getting plaudits from Juventus fans. On 3 April, when Ronaldo scored the first two goals in a 3–0 win against Juventus in the quarter-finals of the 2017–18 UEFA Champions League, the second goal a stunning acrobatic bicycle kick and described by Juventus defender Andrea Barzagli as a “PlayStation goal”, the Juventus fans in the stadium gave him a standing ovation.

The PlayStation goal was no fluke, but then no Ronaldo goal ever is! On 11 April, CR7 scored the goal Real Madrid needed to advance to the Champions League semi-final at Juve’s expense. It was his tenth goal against the Vecchia Signora, a Champions League record against a single club.

And then he signed up with Juve. On 10 July 2018. For four years.

 

Those 9 “happiest years”

Personally

Ronaldo and Ronaldo Jr: “Me and my boy.” writes papa last February

All four children of Ronaldos’ were born during his time at Real Madrid: Cristiano Ronaldo Jr, born on 17 June 2010 from Ronaldo’s former relationship; the twins Eva Maria and Mateo, 5 June 2017, via a surrogate mother; Alana Martina, born to CR7 and his Spanish girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez on 12 November 2017.

5 June 2018: “My babies Eva and Mateo celebrate their first birthday today!”  With the celebrants are big brother Ronaldo Jr and papa’s girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez. See Baby Alana in the background.

Ronaldo’s best known and longest-lasting relationship to date was with Russian model Irina Shayk (2010-2015). Georgina, his current girlfriend, is the only known mother to a child of his. Rumors say they started dating in November 2016.

 

Professionally

Let’s start from the bottom line, the one that makes 33-year old Ronaldo not only the Number 1 “soccer” player in the world but also one of the highest-paid athletes by Forbes’ reckoning. Actually, in 2016 as well as 2017 Forbes had him as the world’s highest-paid athlete with total earnings (salary plus non-football earnings like endorsements) of $88million and $93million respectively.

Now the sport: On 1 July 2009, Ronaldo’s transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid became official. At €94 million ($110,050,970.00 at today’s exchange rate), it was then the costliest club transfer in history though the record would be broken four short years later when winger Gareth Bale transferred to Real for the price of €100 million. Moreover, Ronaldo’s transfer to Juventus in 2018 is equal to Bale’s transfer to Real five years earlier (September 2013).

Per his six-year contract, the iconic footballer was reportedly going to be paid an annual salary of €13 million, with 25% yearly hike, making him the highest-salaried footballer in the world then.

Ronaldo presenting his 2014 Ballon d’Or to fans at the Santiago Bernabeu

His official presentation at the Santiago Bernabeu was attended by at least 80,000 enthralled fans, breaking the 25-year record of 75,000 fans who treated Diego Maradona’s arrival at Napoli like the Second Coming of Christ.

Ronaldo is a five-time winner of the Ballon d’Or. Four of these he carried off while at Real: back to back in 2013 and 2014, and again in 2016 and 2017 after leading Real to victory in the 2016 and 2017 Champions Leagues. His win in 2017 finally allowed him to catch up with Leo Messi of FC Barcelona who bagged his fifth Golden Ball in 2015.

Ronaldo is actually the first player who led his club to win the Champions League trophy four times. With a total of 46 goals, he was also the first player to score against all 19 opposition teams in a single La Liga season.

It couldn’t be sunny skies all the time, however. Not even for Real’s superstar. Some dark cloud appeared on his horizon in the 2012-2013 season and he let it be known that he was unhappy with his club over a “professional issue”. He refused to celebrate his 150th goal despite the fact that the season saw him lifting the Spanish Super Cup trophy for Real.

Yet the dark cloud didn’t stop him from going ahead and score goal after goal. He became the first player to score in six successive Clásicos (Real Madrid vs.  Barça encounters). He was doing so well he was a candidate for the FIFA Ballon d’Or but, unfortunately, still not so good as to be able to beat Messi, his eternal rival, who ran away with Golden Ball yet again.

At Bernabeu during a match in the 2014-15 season

In January of that season, Ronaldo became the first non-Spanish player in 60 years to captain Real Madrid in El Clásico. Though there were reports of rifts in Real and, especially, speculations about CR7’s future in the club, the fact was that at the start of the 2013-2014 campaign he signed a new contract that kept him in Real till 2018, with a net salary of €17 million. Briefly, that made him again the world’s highest-paid footballer.

He implied that he was never in a better form in his entire career. This time he did win the Ballon d’Or, the first in his stint at Real, and was also named FIFA World Player of the Year.

Ronaldo started off his seventh season at Real Madrid (2015-2016) with a big bang, becoming the club’s all-time top scorer in March. By May he had overtaken Jimmy Greaves, the highest goalscorer in the history of top-tier English football (357 goals). CR7 became the all-time top scorer in the top five European leagues.

Overall, he goaled 451 times out of the 438 matches he attended while with Real Madrid and won 16 trophies, including two La Ligas (he is the only player to reach 30 goals in six consecutive La Liga seasons), two Copas del Rey, four UEFA Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups, and three FIFA Club World Cups.

The final tournament (26 May) of the 2017-2018 season saw Ronaldo leading Real to their fourth consecutive Champions League triumph to become the first team to do so. And that was it for him.

It was time to move on, he said. The alleged true reasons were: (1) the bad blood between him and Real Madrid president Florentino Perez; (2) Real’s refusal to raise his salary in a new contract; and (3), the accusation by the Spanish Ministry of Finance of tax fraud, forcing Ronaldo to pay a compromise amount of $21million in order to avoid serving a jail term.

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Images
Featured image, Ronaldo in the 2018 UEFA Champions League Final /  Антон Зайцев, CC BY3.0
Juventus logo, PD
Cristiano Ronaldo and Jr/Ronaldo’s official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Cristiano, Fair use
Eva and Mateo on their first birthday/Ronaldo’s official Facebook page, Fair use
2014 Ballon d’Or/Anish Moraji, CC BY2.0
Ronaldo, 2014-15 season/Chris Deahr, CC BY2.0

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