Cristiano Ronaldo opened up about his life in football with “Madrid: My Story” on The Players’ Tribune. It’s an incredible insight into how his career, and life, has evolved. You should read the entire piece, but these were the moments that jumped out at us.
Ronaldo has never forgotten the first time his mom and sisters saw him play.
It’s fascinating to see what moments stick with an athlete. One Cristiano describes is when he was 7 years old. His dad would always be at his games, but his mom and sisters had no interest in soccer — so they would never watch him. He never forgot when they first turned up.
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.
It was just a few short years later that he left at age 11 to join Sporting Lisbon’s training academy.
Nobody believed in him because he was too small.
Great athletes, or perhaps more aptly, the greatest athletes all have stories of doubt that motivated them. Ronaldo’s is no different.
I remember the first time I heard one of the kids say to another kid, “Did you see what he did? This guy is a beast.”
I started hearing it all the time. Even from the coaches. But then somebody would always say, “Yeah but it’s a shame he’s so small.”
And 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.
Cristiano’s quote on what it’s like to win and lose is an all-time great.
When you lose, it’s like you’re starving. When you win, it’s still like you’re starving, but you ate a little crumb.
Ronaldo dreamed of winning championships for Real Madrid while he was at Manchester United
Ronaldo’s career-defining move was spurning the English Premier League and moving to Real Madrid to cement his legacy as one of the greatest players ever. His heart was always in Madrid, because of his childhood. Even while he was on top of the world with Manchester United, playing at one of the largest clubs in one of the world’s most-visible markets, he wanted more.
I had always admired Madrid, and I wanted a new challenge. I wanted to win trophies at Madrid, and break all the records, and become a club legend.
Ronaldo has done everything he set out to achieve.
Winning has changed for him since the birth of his son.
The is the sweetest and most emotional part of Ronaldo’s story. He explains that winning titles early on was about glory, and achievement — now it’s about cementing memories with his son that will last forever.
It was the moment on the field after we won the last Champions League final in Cardiff. We made history that night. 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.
This is really so sweet. These moments now are the ones that will last with Ronaldo for a lifetime.
But what means the most to me about my time in Madrid, and what I will tell my grandchildren about when I am 95 years old, is the feeling of walking around the pitch as a champion, hand in hand with my son.