By Mac Izu Nelson
When over a decade ago, Manchester United snapped up a certain, skinny, pockmarked Portuguese winger, very few in the game would have expected the transformation that came of it.
In his first season, a dummy here or there, a burst of pace, a mazy dribble, even a shimmy and a feint to beat an astounded goalkeeper; all these attributes were just seen as archetypal of the South American blood in him.
He was still European, and Portuguese, so doubts abounded (a Portuguese legend like the great Eusebio had not been seen in a while).
So the general consensus was to ignore, to not hype this dazzling youngster in the same manner in which an English youngster of similar powers might be hyped.
But his colleagues knew. The rest of the watching world knew, as well.
One day, the boy would die.
And like a phoenix, from the ashes of his cremation a star would rise.
A man, a god, a legend would be born.
Christiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro lifted his first trophy, an FA cup on his debut season at Manchester United, and he has never looked back since then.
He helped United win three successive Premier League titles, a UEFA Champions League title, and a FIFA Club World Cup.
By age 23, he had received a Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year nominations. He was the subject of the most expensive association football transfer when he moved from Manchester United to Real Madrid in 2009 in a transfer worth €94 million ($132 million).
He became the fastest player to score 200 goals for the Spanish side, reaching the mark in just his 178th game.
In Spain, he has since won one La Liga title, two Copas del Rey, two Champions League titles, and two Club World Cups.
He is the only player to win four European Golden Shoe awards.
He is the only player in the history of football to score more than 50 goals in a season on six consecutive occasions.
He has won the Ballon d’or on 4 occasions and on Monday added the revamped “The Best” FIFA award for the best performing player of last season.
What a man. And that’s not all.
He is the first Portuguese player to reach 50 international goals, making him Portugal’s all-time top goal scorer.
At Euro 2016, he became the most capped player of all-time in the tournament, the first player to score at four consecutive European Championship finals, and also equalled Michel Platini’s all-time record for most goals scored in the competition.
So while debates about if he is better than a certain diminutive Argentine rage on, let us not
let that detract from what that skinny lad has grown up to be.
A coagulation of excellence.