When Cristiano Ronaldo won the FIFA Ballon d’Or for the third time last January in Zurich, I had planned to write something about him but I was entangled with a deadline and by the time I tried to release my post, it had been overshadowed by events so I discarded it. But I did not despair; I knew the enfant terrible would do something else that would steal the headlines again—I am no wise guy, CR7 does it all time. This time it was in last weekend’s La Liga game against Granada where Real Madrid woke up from slumber and trounced the lowly side by 9 goals to 1, with Ronaldo chunking up five goals from the lot, the first of his career. In so doing, he usurped his archrival Lionel Messi as the highest goal scorer in the La Liga and summed his tally to 37 league goals—48 goals in all competition this season. En route this record-breaking feat, Ronaldo has now scored 31 hat-tricks in his career, a total of Ronaldo 299 (some say 300) league goals for Real Madrid. It would only be a matter of time before he will bypass the records of Alfredo De Stefano—the ingenious Argentine that mesmerized the stage in his days, and former homeboy, Raul.
One cannot help but marvel at how the 30 year old richest and most famous football player on the planet continues to shatter records and keep himself motivated year in, year out. From the moment Manchester United played against Sporting Lisbon and encountered a spindly but precocious teenager who kept racing down the flanks, giving John O’Shea a reason to worry about his waistline, the one said to have been christened after America’s former President Ronald Reagan, has never looked back. Sir Alex Ferguson who has been in the business of bringing on talented young players all his years couldn’t be more impressed as he ensured that Cristiano Ronaldo was shopped for a tidy £12.24m.
The talent and technical prowess of Cristiano was clear for everyone to see from the outset. His endless step-overs and lightning speed was a constant threat for defences in the premiership, and Ronaldo arriving Carrington training complex at 18 was full of promises of a prodigious foreign talent but the magnitude to which that sheer propensity will unfold was still not clear. What the staunchest follower of Ronaldo would never predict was that he was going to transform into a physical specimen for billboards and magazine covers, become the most famous soccer player ever—statistics confirms that Ronaldo’s followership on Facebook, Twitter has ballooned to over 155million and 84% percent of the world’s population is aware of Ronaldo. Ronaldo is now a walking advertising platform as you can be assured that from the crown of his head to the sole of his feet has been booked. He is also the richest guy in the lot, with a fortune of £152m, don’t just bother to envy him!
Today, if I don’t hurry to post thus blog, Ronaldo might be up to something else tomorrow and this would become stale. But I am not here for ballyhooing about CR7 or stating the obvious—I am concerned about what makes Ronaldo tick and what can make me—tick— as well. So how does Ronaldo do it?
“I am an ambitious player with only one objective: victory for my team.”
When Ronaldo first jetted into Carrington, the training centre of Manchester United, he had the promising talent no doubt, but there was something different about him from the other talents that came before or shortly after him—he had the ambition to be the best. He had soaked in the champion’s mentality that permeated the ambiance in Old Trafford—seeing great players like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes who formed the invincible class of 92—lads who dazzled and conquered the premier league and did the treble years before, and being bequeathed with the iconic no 7 shirt—an adored vacuum that has been posterized by the likes of George Best, Eric Cantona and David Beckham, his resolve, mingled with this inspiring scenario, instilled the fillip to attain immortality. Developmental coach Mike Clegg who worked with Ronaldo in his heydays said, “I look at the other players who come and go with talent. Nani and Anderson both came in during 2007 at a similar age to Ronaldo, but the difference was astronomical. The difference was the understanding and the knowledge of how to become the best. Ronaldo was above everyone else.”
The training Ground
“He’s fantastic, and the way he works, speaks for itself,” said Mourinho. “He’s not the kind of big status who sleeps in the shadow of the status. No, he’s a boy that works very hard every day, lots of ambition, he wants to improve all the time.” – Jose Mourinho.
Ambition is nothing—hard work is everything! When the good-looking Ronaldo eventually made his debut against Bolton —his talents shone through like the morning sun. There was no doubting that his future beamed promises yet he was only a scrawny teenager and featherweight—many times succumbing to the muscularity of the English Premiership bullies. That soon gave way as Ronaldo found his way to the gym and made it his second home—helping himself with the avalanche of dumbbells, cardiovascular machines and medicine balls, molding himself into an athletic specimen with the vigor of an Olympic champion. CR7 also takes himself through his pace like a sprinter and he developed a lethal speed with his build and has combined that beautifully with endless practice. It is a common sight to see Cristiano Ronaldo stay back for extracurricular training regimes—practicing free kicks and some ball movements. Cristiano also metamorphosed from a fiery winger who managed a few assists and a few goals a season to a goal machine who can find the back of the net with all the contours of his body.
I want to be the best
“People think Cristiano is flash and has an ego, but he is really down to earth. He wants to be the best – he doesn’t think he is the best – but he wants to be and that explains his continual drive to be better all the time.”— Paul Clement, Assistant coach, Real Madrid.
Ronaldo’s penchant to always improve his crafts is second to none. In spite of the collection of trophies and individual awards that has coloured his career timeline so far, he is always saying that “I feel an endless need to learn, to improve, to evolve, not only to please the coach and the fans, but also to feel satisfied with myself.” He’s never satisfied with the best and that has been the story of his record-breaking career—he continues to shatter his own record yet he is not relenting. Ronaldo celebrated his 30th birthday a few months back, and while many have reckoned that his stock may soon begin to plummet, as characterized by the careers of other greats who have fallen sharply to a decline once they attained that age, others are keeping faith with the Portuguese Captain to defy the odds with his strict diet regimes and recovery workout exercise that he is famed for.
I am unstoppable
“Your love makes me strong, your hate makes me unstoppable.”
There is this notion that goes round about Cristiano Ronaldo is a conceited guy—he wants the camera to focus on him—he believes he is so good. But I think that what people see as pride many times is a harmless show of confidence—needed for peak performance and that is the hallmark of great guys—not just footballers. I wrote in my first book, The “OBAMA” in You! how Barack Obama believed in his own rhetoric as he gunned for the office of the president of the United States. President Obama told his close friend Martin Nesbit on the eve of his sell-out speech to the Democratic convention in 2004 that “my speech is pretty good.” In the same vein CR7 has always reiterated to friends and foes alike that “your love makes me strong, your hate makes me unstoppable.”
O.P. Philips is a freelance writer/entrepreneur. He is the author of The “OBAMA” in You! His new book, “What Football Teaches About Life” will be released soon.