Cristiano Ronaldo: Looking Beyond the Surface

There is a lot to dislike about Cristiano Ronaldo.

From his mugging for the cameras, to his ripping his shirt off after scoring the sixth goal in a 7-1 rout of some minnow like Getafe, or his sulking when things don't go his way it's easy to see why he rubs some people the wrong way.

In fairness, even if his detractors are loath to admit it, some of the disdain for which he's held in by some surely comes down to jealousy.

The Portuguese captain is a supremely gifted footballer, who is also good looking and as a result is one of the most recognizable athletes on the planet. He owns cars that most of us will only see on Top Gear, let alone drive, is incredibly wealthy and has dated some of the most beautiful women in the world.

So it isn't hard to hate him, particularly when he's gesticulating at teammates for not passing him the ball when he thinks he's in a good position or if he's making faces at the cameras.

When he's invariably compared to his great rival, the supposedly humble choirboy Lionel Messi, he doesn't come off looking good on the surface. But beyond the posturing is a man who had nothing handed to him and who worked his ass off to become one of the greatest players in the history of the game.

Growing up in poverty in Santo António, a neighborhood of Funchal, Madeira, the future Manchester United and Real Madrid star shared a small bedroom with his brother and sister. His father, a municipal gardener, and his mother who worked as a cook, did their best to provide for Cristiano and his three older siblings while encouraging him as he made first steps into youth football.

After going on a trial with Sporting CP at age 12, Ronaldo did enough to convince the club's coaches to sign him to a semi-professional contract while he continued on at school.

Despite quickly becoming a star with the Sporting youth side, Ronaldo at first struggled in Lisbon as he was teased and bullied in school because of his thick Madeira accent.

He would more than have the last laugh on his former peers who claimed that he didn't speak real Portuguese, when he broke into Sporting's first team at age 16.

After impressing during his debut season, he caught the eye of Manchester United after tearing them apart in a pre-season friendly and was quickly signed by the Reds legendary former manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

Given the number seven jersey, a sacred number at Old Trafford that had previously been worn by the likes of George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona and David Beckham, Ronaldo did not feel the weight of the shirt as some have done since and gradually improved his game over his first three seasons in England.

When he initially landed in the red half of Manchester, the knock on Ronaldo was that although he was a talented dribbler he was often knocked off the ball quite easily and he didn't consistently deliver the end result befitting his obvious ability.

Besides his work on the training pitch, where he took in Ferguson's advice on how to improve his shooting and heading, Ronaldo spent an obsessive amount of time in the weight room and the pool, packing on the lean muscle that he's re known for now.

His final three seasons at Manchester United were nothing short of miraculous, as he fired in 91 goals across all competitions on his way to leading the club to three consecutive league titles, a League Cup win, a UEFA Champions League crown, and the club's first FIFA Club World Cup.

He departed to Real Madrid in the summer of 2009 as a hero to United fans everywhere, and yet has arguably gone on to become even better in the Spanish capital.

While scooping up one La Liga crown and two UEFA Champions League titles, Ronaldo has consistently been Real's top scorer and on pitch talisman.

Although his exploits on the pitch have marked him down as a player for the ages, perceptions of his arrogance continue to abound. Teammates though are quick to shoot down accusations of him being a prima donna though, and it came as a no surprise to some when a video of him encouraging a nervous João Moutinho to take a penalty during Portugal's shoot-out victory over Poland in their Euro 2016 Quarter-Final came to light.

Away from the bright lights of football, Ronaldo's quiet philanthropy has done much to help people throughout the years. Following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami he went to Indonesia to raise funds for the areas effected.

He has also donated hundreds of thousands of Euros to hospital's in Madeira, as well as helping to raise funds to support victims of the 2010 flood on his native island.

In addition to this, he donated €1.5 million to help build school's in Gaza in 2011 and has done much to raise awareness for steering children around the world away from drug addiction and obesity.

After helping Real Madrid to the 2016 UEFA Champions League crown, he donated his €600,000 bonus to children's charities.

So while I understand why people dislike him and question his attitude, I have a lot of respect for a man who has strove to become not just a better player, but a better person.


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