Cristiano Ronaldo's name adorning Sporting CP's stadium is a dream club president Frederico Varandas isn't prepared to give up on.
Varandas told Tuttosport (h/t Football Italia) why renaming the stadium is the best way to honour Ronaldo, who turned heads as a youngster at Sporting before becoming a global star for Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus:
"It's a theory we will not shelve and obviously we'd be very proud to have his name associated with us.
"Cristiano is and always will be one of the greatest symbols in the history of our club. We're already keeping his values on the walls of the youth academy, focusing on passion, sacrifice, discipline, leadership and determination. Cristiano is certainly the best Portuguese player of all time and one of the best athletes in the history of the sport."
Ronaldo is chasing the 700th goal of his career, a mark he can hit if he features and scores during Portugal's UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier away to Ukraine on Monday.
The rare landmark is a testament to how prolific he has been since his breakthrough at Sporting almost two decades ago:
A young and promising Ronaldo began his ascent to the top of the European game when he caught the eye of the Red Devils during a preseason friendly in 2003:
United scored a major coup by securing the deal, not least because it meant the club had beaten archrivals Arsenal to Ronaldo's signature.
During an interview with ITV's Piers Morgan (h/t Metro's Phil Haigh), Ronaldo detailed the near-miss with the Gunners: "Very close. One step. Seriously. It didn't happen, but Arsenal, I appreciate what they did for me, especially Arsene Wenger, but football you never know where you are going to play, life is like that."
Instead, Ronaldo helped United re-establish dominance, both domestically in the Premier League and on the continent in the UEFA Champions League.
Ronaldo won the latter trophy once with the Red Devils and four times with Real, making him the best endorsement for the quality of Sporting's youth academy:
@Sporting_CP @eduardo_edu_72 Eduardo Quaresma is a product of a famous Sporting CP youth system – one of the most highly regarded academies in Portugal and Europe which raised such great footballers like Luis Figo, Simao Sabrosa, Ricardo Quaresma, Cristiano Ronaldo & Nani.
While Sporting can feel proud about having unearthed Ronaldo, there must be some regret at the Lisbon-based club about letting him go too soon. Sporting haven't won the Primeira Liga since 2002, a drought that surely would have ended sooner had a precocious Ronaldo stuck around for a few more seasons.
Yet it's unlikely the rise of such an obvious natural talent could have been slowed down. Not only has Ronaldo bossed the club scene, but he has also set new standards for his nation which a fresh generation are attempting to match:
Sky Sports Statto @SkySportsStatto
🇵🇹 Joao Felix makes his @selecaoportugal debut aged 19 years, 207 days – he scored 20 goals for Benfica last season 🇵🇹 @Cristiano makes his debut in @UEFAEURO Nations League – at 19 years, 207 days, Ronaldo had scored 11 club goals for Sporting & Man Utd combined https://t.co/5EfHqbvOO9
Having a stadium named after him at the place where it all began would be an appropriate reminder of what Ronaldo went on to achieve. It would also act as a lasting ode to Portugal's enduring ability to produce some of Europe's greatest players.