Cristiano Ronaldo is one of those athletes that seems larger than life. His constant stream of success on the soccer pitch, and his luxurious life off of it, make him one of the biggest stars in the world.
His attitude also often reflects a certain inaccessibility. He knows he’s the best, he wants all the glory, and this has led to critics labeling Ronaldo as a selfish prima donna.
Between his otherworldly achievements on the pitch (he’s scored 411 goals in 401 games for Real Madrid just in 2017) and his tabloid-headline life off of it, Ronaldo may be the most talked about athlete on the planet.
He doesn’t have the grace or feel-good story of Lionel Messi, the man he’s in constant competition with, but he makes up for that with pure will to succeed.
That drive allowed Ronaldo to go from the streets of the small island of Madeira to the summit of the sporting world.
In an article penned for The Player’s Tribune, we get some insight into how Ronaldo became one of the greatest soccer players of all time, and peel the curtain back on a man that can seem elusively inaccessible.
Here are five quotes that teach us about the man that is Cristiano Ronaldo.
On what family means to him
Ronaldo wrote about seeing his mother and his sisters in the stands to watch him play for the first time when he was a little kid. Even as a 7-year-old, Ronaldo was proud to play in front of his family and wanted to make them proud of him:
“I felt so good in that moment. It meant a lot to me. It was like something switched inside of me. I was really proud. At that time, we didn’t have much money. Life was a struggle back then in Madeira. I was playing in whatever old boots my brother passed down to me or my cousins gave me. But when you’re a kid, you don’t care about money. You care about a certain feeling. And on that day, this feeling, it was very strong. I felt protected and loved. In Portuguese, we say menino querido da família.”
Growing up in poverty on a secluded Portuguese island gave Ronaldo the drive to find better circumstances, but he always played to make himself and his family proud.
On moving away from home to pursue his dream
At 11 years old, Ronaldo moved from Madeira to the Portuguese capital to play for the legendary team Sporting Lisbon. He moved by himself and his family only had enough money to visit every 4 months. Ronaldo says he cried every day, but soccer kept him going:
“It was my opportunity to pursue my dream. So they let me go, and I went. I cried almost every day. I was still in Portugal, but it was like moving to another country. The accent made it like a completely different language. The culture was different. I didn’t know anybody, and it was extremely lonely. My family could only afford to come visit me every four months or so. I was missing them so much that every day was painful.”
On his decision to become the best in the world
Early on while at Sporting it was apparent Ronaldo was special, but he was a scrawny little kid. He decided that he would dedicate himself to becoming the best in the world, despite being 11:
“It’s true, I was skinny. I had no muscle. So I made a decision at 11 years old. I knew I had a lot of talent, but I decided that I was going to work harder than everybody. I was going to stop playing like a kid. I was going to stop acting like a kid. I was going to train like I could be the best in the world.”
No matter what you do. You can always practice like you’re the best in the world.
In his article, Ronaldo explains the difference between winning his first trophies of his career with Lisbon and Manchester United to winning with Real Madrid. But more interestingly, he outlines how becoming a father changed the way he views success:
“When I was on the pitch after the final whistle, it felt like I had sent a message to the world. But then my son came on the field to celebrate with me … and it was like the snap of a finger. Suddenly, the entire emotion changed. He was running around with Marcelo’s son. We held the trophy together. Then we walked around the field, hand in hand. It is a joy that I did not understand until I was a father. There are so many emotions happening simultaneously that you cannot describe the feeling in words. The only thing I can compare it to is how I felt when I was warming up in Madeira and I saw my mother and sister huddled together in the stands.”
This familial affection is something we’ve never seen out of Ronaldo but it’s clearly what drives him to be the best, to represent his family and make them proud.
On never forgetting the dream
Ronaldo has basically done it all at Madrid. He’s won every trophy there is to win, both with the team and personally. But that childhood dream is what keeps him going to strive for more success:
“After 400 matches with Madrid, winning is still my ultimate ambition. I think I was born like that. But the feeling after I win has definitely changed. This is a new chapter in my life. I had a special message engraved on my new Mercurial boots. It’s right on the heel, and the words are the last thing that I read before I lace them up and go to the tunnel. It is like a final reminder … a final motivation. It says, “El sueño del niño.”
“The dream of the child.”
To truly be the best at whatever you do, never forget your dreams or where you come from.