Guillem Balague

Guillem reflects on Cristiano Ronaldo's first, big step.

by Guillem Balague

Guillem reflects on Cristiano Ronaldo's first, big step.

Few people understand the commitment needed from young, aspiring footballers in order to make the grade. No one ever wanted to be the very best more than Cristiano Ronaldo. This extract from my biography of the Madeiran superstar explains the sacrifice he had to make to get to the top of his profession - Guillem Balagué

Ronaldo was becoming too big for such a small and isolated island, despite being only twelve years old, so what happened next was inevitable

As it happened, Nacional owed Sporting 25,000 euros for a player, Franco, who had been signed by the Madeiran outfit but end up falling short of expe ctations. They were struggling to pay the debt and a transfer of the young Ronaldo to Sporting was an obvious solution. But was Ronaldo worth 25,000 euros? That was a considerable amount of money at that time; in fact such a sum had never been paid for such a young kid.

Having received the all-clear from Sporting and Nacional, Ronaldo’s first venture outside Madeira took place at Easter. He had a reduced rate tic ket; children under twelve do not pay full price. His godfather took him to the airport.

He flew alone.

When Cristiano tells the story now, he says that he went with his mother. Aurelio Pereira (the man in charge of transfers at Sporting) seems to remember his godfather travelling with him, but the truth is that nobody went with the young Ronaldo.

For the average twelve year old, it is difficult to comprehend the full ramifications of any decision at a time when responsibilities are scarce, but Cristiano admitted to his godfather that he was nervous and had not slept a wink the night before the flight, his first ever. It was as if he knew something was going to change for ever as soon as he stepped on that plane.

He travelled with a name tag around his neck and a bag containing some clothes.

Aurelio and Mário Lino, another sporting director picked him up.

Cristiano sat quietly in the back of Aurelio’s car and gazed out of the window at a world heaving with cars and people. ‘I thought I was in another country,’ he recalled. He surely meant on another planet. Ronaldo was utterly convinced that he would overcome every obstacle, no matter the nature of the trial and who he was playing against: ‘I was confident and relxed. I knew they’d like me and want to keep me.’

Extract from "Cristiano Ronaldo - The Biography" by Guillem Balague. Available on Amazon