Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro, FIFA World Footballer of the Year 2008. Already crowned European Footballer of the Year 2008, Ronaldo added to his trophy collection with the ultimate accolade for any footballer. Born in 1985 in Funchal, Madeira, Ronaldo has reached the peak of his profession in just a few short years.
The World Footballer of the Year award is voted for by coaches and captains of the world’s international football teams. Each coach gets three votes, the player voted the top player by the coach gets five points, the second three and the third player one point. The winner is simply the player accumulating the most points. There is also an award for the best female player in the world.The men’s award was introduced in 1991 and the women’s award a decade later. Historically, the men’s award has been dominated by European based Brazilian players, winning eight out of the eighteen titles. The 2008 winner, Cristiano Ronaldo beat Kaka of Brazil, last years winner, into second place. Third place went to Argentina`s Lionel Messi, followed by Fernando Torres of Spain and Xavi, also of Spain.Cristiano Ronaldo joined Sporting Lisbon at the age of twelve, making his debut at the age of seventeen, when he scored two goals on his first team debut. Sporting won the championship in that season, and was already attracting a posse of scouts from the major clubs.
However, it was not until Sporting beat Manchester United in a pre-season friendly that the British press sat up and took notice. Ronaldo was mesmerizing in the friendly match and by half time the Manchester United players were trying to persuade Sir Alex Ferguson to buy the young Portuguese winger.Sir Alex agreed and Cristiano Ronaldo joined Manchester United for 18m Euros. He was so highly thought of that he was given the famous Number 7 shirt, worn by legendary Manchester United players including George Best, Eric Cantona and David Beckham.That season he wowed the fans with his blistering speed, fancy trickery and heading ability. In his first season he won the Man of the Match award in the FA Cup final, and was voted the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award by the Manchester United fans.Over the next three seasons he managed to increase his goal tally, reaching double figures for the season in 2005/06. He was becoming physically stronger and had developed the ability to play on both wings. Although he had a controversial World Cup in 2006, Ronaldo contributed 23 goals in 49 games, in the league and probably just as important assisted in another 20 goals as his teamwork drastically improved.
The 2007/08 season started with a sending off in the second game of the season. Cristiano Ronaldo duly returned to play against his old club Sporting Lisbon, scoring the only goal in the first leg and an injury time winner in the second leg. Ronaldo finished by gaining second place in the European Footballer of the Year awards, the Ballon d`Or, coming second to Kaka, and third in the FIFA World Footballer of the Year behind Kaka and Lionel Messi.
On 12th January 2008, Ronaldo scored his first ever hat trick for Manchester United as they beat Newcastle United 6-0 to go top of the Premiership. He would shortly match his previous seasons goal tally with his twenty third goal of the season in the 2-0 win against Reading.Cristiano Ronaldo was given the captain’s arm band as Manchester United played Bolton,beating them 2-0, with Ronaldo scoring both goals. This was the game where he beat George Best’s record for a Manchester United midfielder by scoring his thirty third goal of the season.Manchester United played Chelsea in the Champions League final where he scored after twenty six minutes. Chelsea scored on half time, and the match played out to a 1-1 after extra time.So, to penalties. Christiano Ronaldo thought he had lost the match for Manchester United as he missed his penalty. Needing only to score to win the match for Chelsea, captain John Terry slipped on the run up, and Manchester United were champions once again.Although there have been ongoing reports that Real Madrid were about to sign the Portuguese star, Ronaldo has remained a Manchester United player, and has recently committed his future to the Red Devils.
During 2007/08 as United won the UEFA Champions League title as well as the Premiership and with Ronaldo winning the European and World Footballer of the Year, leading Dutch legend Johan Cruyff to claim that Ronaldo was better than Manchester United stars George Best and Denis Law. By the end of the 2007/08 season Ronaldo had amassed 42 goals, just four short of the Manchester United record number for a season.Cristiano Ronaldo’s strength is his ability to be skillful at speed. His trademark step overs have been copied by young players all over the world, but few can perform them whilst running flat out against an opponent. Bobby Charlton once remarked that the step overs were embarrassing at first, and certainly he was accused of being a “one trick pony”, but since then, as he has grown older, so with it has come an extra physical strength and maturity.Ronaldo’s speed of thought is often as effective has his physical speed. His dedication to football has allowed him to develop other skills. He is a master of dead ball situations, and his free kicks are often repeated on television, simply because of their spectacular technical brilliance. Ronaldo also has the added plus of being an excellent header of the ball. He is is simply one of the most skillful players of his generation.
As the legendary Pele handed Christiano Ronaldo his award as World Footballer of the Year, few would bet against him winning again, and one day we may see a young player receiving an award from Christiano Ronaldo, the greatest player in the world.