Cristiano Ronaldo: 28 Reasons to Love the Real Madrid Star
Since his first professional game with Sporting Lisbon in 2002, the tricky Portuguese star has scored hundreds of goals, earned countless personal accolades and collected enough silverware to make even the biggest trophy cabinet feel overcrowded.
To celebrate C-Ron's big day, here are 28 reasons to love him.
He Scores Incredible Goals
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 302 club goals (see them all here), and a large proportion of them are works of majesty.
In 2009, he won the inaugural FIFA Puskas Award for a stunning 40-yard strike against Porto in the Champions League.
Last month, he showcased his prowess in front of goal with a "perfect hat-trick" against Getafe, meaning he scored with his left foot, his right foot and his head.
Even His Own Goals Are Beautiful
Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first career own-goal in Madrid's surprise 1-0 loss to Grenada last weekend, and it was a header that most strikers would have been proud of!
His goal meant Grenada won the game without having a single shot on target.
He's the Most Expensive Footballer in History
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Manchester United fans may not have been pleased with the manner in which Cristiano Ronaldo engineered a move to Real Madrid, but when his transfer finally went through in the summer of 2009, it was for the princely sum of €93.9 million.
According to Spanish reports, Ronaldo's six-year contract also includes a stupendous €1 billion buy-out clause.
He Is a National Hero
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Since debuting against Kazakhstan in 2003 at the age of 17, Cristiano Ronaldo has established himself as the Portuguese national team captain, becoming the third youngest footballer in Europe to reach 100 caps last October.
He was part of the team that somehow managed not to beat Greece in the Euro 2004 final. He led them to a semi-final penalty defeat to Spain at Euro 2012, and helped Portugal to the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup (but only after playing a controversial part in Wayne Rooney's quarter-final red card).
He is the Navegadores' third all-time top scorer with 38 goals and has been Portuguese Footballer of the Year for the past eight seasons.
His Skills Are a Joy to Watch
Critics may accuse him of being a "showboater" who performs one too many stepovers, but Cristiano Ronaldo's mix of pace, skill and strength would be unmatched in the football world if a man named Leo Messi didn't exist.
His Free Kicks Are Superb
The power and accuracy with which Cristiano Ronaldo can hit a dead ball are second to none in the game today.
He has scored dozens of brilliant free kicks throughout his career, but one of the finest was probably his strike against Portsmouth in January 2008. Sir Alex Ferguson hailed it as the best free kick he'd ever seen, while The Telegraph ranked it as the sixth-best free kick ever taken.
He Is a Man of Many Haircuts
He's an Infallible Ladies' Man
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For some reason, good looks, fame, wealth and world-class sporting ability combine to make Cristiano Ronaldo quite the eligible bachelor.
As a result, he's had more high-profile romance partners than most of us have had hot dinners. The Portuguese Man o' Sex has dated a bevy of beauties including Paris Hilton, Spanish model Nereida Gallardo, Mario Balotelli's baby mama Raffaella Fico, Ryan-Giggs-marriage-destroyer Imogen Thomas and British actress Gemma Atkinson.
For the past few years, he has dated Russian Sports Illustrated cover model Irina Shayk.
He Is a Record Breaker
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At Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo is continually smashing club and personal records.
He holds the record for most goals scored in a season for Madrid (60 in 2011/12), most goals scored per minute in the league (he scored every 70.7 minutes in 2011/12), he was the first European player to top 40 goals in two consecutive seasons (2010/11 and 2011/12), he's was the fastest Madrid player to reach 100 goals and in 2011/12, and he became the first player to score against every single team in a La Liga season.
He Was a Precocious Youngster
Like Kaka and Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo had a small frame as a child, leading coaches to believe he may struggle to make it as a professional.
Despite this, he landed a trial with Sporting Lisbon at the age of 11 and subsequently signed for a fee of around £1,500.
By the age of 16, he made history by playing in the U-16, U-17, U-18, B team and first team all in the same season.
He Triumphed over Health Problems
At the age of 15, Cristiano Ronaldo's career was threatened before it had even started, as he was diagnosed with Tachycardia, a condition that gives an irregular and abnormally high resting heart rate.
He had laser surgery to treat the problem, and according to his mother, he was back at training just a few days later.
He Could Have Been a Barcelona Player
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After he impressed during a Sporting Lisbon friendly with Manchester United, Alex Ferguson signed a teenage Cristiano Ronaldo for €15 million.
Prior to making history in the Premier League, Ronaldo was actually offered to Barcelona for less money. However, former president Joan Laporta explained to a Spanish radio station that they couldn't afford him after making several other major signings (via ESPN):
(Agent Jorge) Mendes offered him to us, for even cheaper than to Manchester United, due to some transfers we had done for him, including Deco. But at that moment we did not have the resources after signing Ronaldinho, (Rafael) Marquez and (Ricardo) Quaresma.
He's a Dedicated Follower of Fashion
He Has a Charitable Side
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As one of the most highly-paid athletes in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo has made many charitable gestures. In 2009 he donated £100,000 to a hospital that saved his mother's life.
In 2004, he raised around $100,000 by visiting tsunami-hit areas of Indonesia.
More recently, he and agent Jorge Mendes paid for a nine-year-old boy's cancer treatment.
He Has Matured as a Player
Throughout his early Manchester United career, Cristiano Ronaldo had a tendency for hotheadedness, which has gradually been fazed out of his game. He received his marching orders four times for the Red Devils, but hasn't seen red for Los Blancos since he swung an elbow at Malaga's Mtiliga in January 2010.
In his first season with Real Madrid, he may have seen red twice, but he received a career-low of just three bookings.
80,000 Fans Came to See His Real Madrid Unveiling
When Cristiano Ronaldo completed his transfer to Real Madrid in July 2009, the club held a lavish unveiling at the Bernebeu to welcome their latest prized asset.
Los Blancos fans lined up for much of the day just to see the brief ceremony, and 80,000 of them roared when he concluded his speech with an exclamation of "Hala Madrid!".
By contrast, the week before, Kaka's unveiling had attracted a mere 55,000 fans. The attendance also eclipsed the 75,000 Neapolitans who turned out for Diego Maradona's Italian unveiling in 1984.
He Once Nutmegged Homer Simpson
Like his Brazilian namesake, Cristiano Ronaldo has been animated onto the streets of Springfield.
Ronaldo's appearance with America's most famous yellow family wasn't actually in a Simpsons episode, but as part of an epic Nike 2010 World Cup commercial (in which he also opened his own stadium and movie!).
He Is Hilariously Ungracious in Defeat
Cristiano Ronaldo is a born winner, which means he doesn't take too kindly to being beaten.
At the moment he lost the Ballon d'Or to Lionel Messi for the fourth consecutive time last month, his face was worth a thousand Portuguese swearwords.
It's a shame he wasn't able to vote for himself, something he said he would be happy to do.
He's Named After Ronald Reagan
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Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro was given the second name "Ronaldo" by his father in honor of former U.S. president Ronald Reagan.
It wasn't "Reaganomics", the Lybia bombings or the Cold War that attracted Ronaldo Sr to the name—it was because the former president was his favorite screen actor.
He's a Social Media Sensation
There is no bigger sportsperson in the world than Cristiano Ronaldo, who broke 50 million Facebook likes in October 2012.
C-Ron currently has over 54 million Facebook followers, over 12 million more than his adversary Leo Messi.
In 2012, Forbes reported that Ronaldo had the 5th highest social media rank in the world, topped only by Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Rihanna and Lady Gaga.
Elsewhere in the virtual world, Ronaldo has long been a spokesman/coverstar/motion capture actor for Pro Evolution Soccer, and he even has his own iPhone game.
He Is an El Clasico Star
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 10 goals in nine matches against Barcelona, making him the 4th most prolific player in El Clasico history in just three-and-a-half seasons.
In October 2012, he became the first player to score in six consecutive Clasicos.
He Addresses His Haters
Cristiano Ronaldo is only too aware that there are plenty of folks who do not drink the C-Ron Kool-Aid, and he knows exactly why they dislike him (via nydailynews.com): "[People are envious of me] because I'm rich, handsome and a great player. There's no other explanation."
But Ronaldo doesn't hate his haters, he only hates losing. In fact, he once said that his fiercest critics inspire him (via ronaldo7.net): "Your love makes me strong, your hate makes me unstoppable."
He Is Easy on the Eye
It has nothing to do with his football skills—and everything to do with a mixture of exercise, good genes and vanity—but Cristiano Ronaldo has one of the better physiques in the game.
It's not difficult to see why he earned an Armani underwear campaign alongside Megan Fox.
Perhaps, most impressive are his back muscles, which are apparently the envy of body building forums.
He Has Great Freestyle Skills
Here's Cristiano Ronaldo holding his own with a professional freestyler.
He Averages More Than One Goal Per Game
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For a player who is rarely utilized as an out-and-out striker, Cristiano Ronaldo has a phenomenal scoring record.
Since joining Madrid, he has managed 133 goals in 118 league appearances, meaning he averages 1.13 goals per game in La Liga.
He scored seven hat-tricks in 2011/12—a Real Madrid record—and his aforementioned "perfect" hat-trick against Getafe was his 19th for the club. Which means he has scored roughly one hat-trick in every 10 games played for Los Blancos.
He Has a World Player of the Year Award
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For the 2007/08 season in which he won the Premier League Golden Boot, the European Golden Shoe, The Premier League and the Champions League, Cristiano Ronaldo was rewarded with the Ballon d'Or, accumulating nearly twice the votes of second-place Leo Messi.
He has finished in the top three of the Ballon d'Or voting in three of the four years since, and almost certainly would have won it again if not for the brilliance of Leo Messi.
He Is a Loving Father
After a fling with a waitress in Los Angeles, Cristiano Ronaldo became a father in June 2010, naming the boy Cristiano Ronaldo Jr.
The mother's identity has never been revealed—with Cristiano's sister going as far as saying she had died—but he was granted full custody of the child, with his mother and sister helping to raise him.
In an interview with CNN's Pedro Pinto, Ronaldo said his son was "the best thing in his life" and that he was "living a dream" raising him. He even admitted to changing one or two diapers!
He Is a Winner
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He won the Champions League as the top tournament goalscorer and Man of the Match in the Final.
He won three consecutive Premier League titles with Manchester United.
He was a key component in Real Madrid's record-breaking La Liga campaign of 2011-12.
He was won six domestic cups and a FIFA Club World Cup.
Cristiano Ronaldo is a winner. He would be the undisputed greatest player in the world if he was playing in a different generation to a certain diminutive Argentinean.
Long may your formidable career continue, Cristiano.