By Frederick Mordi
There are some things quite unique about Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese international and Real Madrid striker, who won the Ballon d’Or World Footballer of the Year Award for the second consecutive year, yesterday, in Zurich, Switzerland, which are worth noting.
Ronaldo was born on February 5, 1985, and is the youngest child of his parents, Maria Dolores dos Santos Aveiro, a cook, and José Dinis Aveiro, a gardener. They named him ‘Ronaldo’ after former U.S. President Ronald Reagan—his father’s favourite actor.
His mother claimed in her autobiography that she tried to abort him while she was pregnant, but the doctor did not support her decision, according to Daily Mail Newspaper. Read the full story here:
Ronaldo was expelled from school after he threw a chair at his teacher for ‘disrespecting’ him. He was diagnosed with a heart condition that might have forced him to quit playing football, at the age of 15. He resumed training few days after a successful operation. Kanu Nwankwo, the Nigerian ex-international had a similar experience.
He started his career as a youth player for Andorinha, before he moved to a bigger club, Sporting CP, where his heart disease was first noticed. Since then, he has been in the radar of the biggest clubs in the world. He has played in the English Premier League with Manchester United, under Sir Alex Ferguson, and his current club, Real Madrid of Spain.
In 2004, he won his first trophy, the FA Cup. In 2008, he won for the first time, the FIFA World Player of the Year, and was the inaugural winner of the FIFA Puskás Award for Goal of the Year in 2009. In November 2014, Ronaldo became the all-time top scorer in the UEFA European Championship with 23 goals. The following month, he became the fastest player to score 200 goals in the Spanish La Liga.
Ronaldo made history in 2009, when he became the world’s most expensive player following his move from Manchester United to Real Madrid, in a transfer worth £80million (€94million/$132million). He was ranked top in Forbes’ list of the world’s highest paid players, with earnings of $73million in combined income from salaries, bonuses and off-field earnings for the previous 12 months, as at May 2014.
He made his international debut for Portugal in 2003, at the age of 18, and has been capped over 100 times. He is the first Portuguese player to reach 50 international goals, making him the country’s top goalscorer of all time. He currently captains Portugal.
In 2008, he won his first Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards. He won again in 2013 and 2014. He is also the first Portuguese footballer to win three Ballons d’Or. He had earlier won the 2013–14 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award.
With Manchester United and Real Madrid, the two clubs where he has spent most of his career, Ronaldo has won three Premier Leagues, one La Liga, one FA Cup, two Football League Cups, two Copas del Rey, one FA Community Shield, one Supercopas de España, two UEFA Champions Leagues, one UEFA Super Cup and two FIFA Club World Cups.
Though he single-handedly took Portugal to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil with his remarkable goals, particularly against Sweden at the qualifying stage, he could not replicate this success at the Mundial due to thigh injuries. Despite warning by his doctor against playing at the World Cup, Ronaldo featured for his country and became the first Portuguese footballer to play and score in three World Cup tournaments.
Ronaldo’s ability to play on either wing as well through the center of the pitch, makes him a flexible attacker. He is reputed for his physical fitness, stamina, and pace, making him one of the fastest players in the world today. He scored 52 goals in 43 games last year.
Rivalry with Messi
Ronaldo is generally regarded as one of the two current best players in the world alongside key rival, Lionel Messi, the Argentine international and Barcelona striker. Both players hold spectacular records in football history. This rivalry has brought out the best in them as they unconsciously strive to outdo each other. Ronaldo beat Messi, who has won the award four times in a row, and German and Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, to the award, for year 2014.
In his acceptance speech, Ronaldo said: “I would like to thank all of those who voted for me, my president, my coach and Real Madrid. It has been an unforgettable year. To win this trophy at the end of it is something incredibly unique.”
Other winners at the event include James Rodriguez of Colombia, who won the FIFA Goal of the Year Award, while Germany’s World Cup winner Joachim Low won men’s coach of the year. Rodriguez won the trophy for his beautiful goal against Uruguay.
What coaches say about Ronaldo
“I have nothing but praise for the boy. He is easily the best player in the world. His contribution as a goal threat is unbelievable. His stats are incredible. Strikes at goal, attempts on goal, raids into the penalty box, headers. It is all there. Absolutely astounding”— Alex Ferguson, after Ronaldo’s transfer to Real Madrid
“Ronaldo is a unique player for all of his talent and his professionalism. He is a player who is extraordinarily consistent”—Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti
Ronaldo’s win comes barely a week after Ivorian international and Manchester City’s Yaya Toure emerged Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) African Footballer of the Year.
By Frederick Mordi
On January 8, 2015, the Confederation of African Football (CAF), the highest football governing body on the continent, unveiled the African Footballer of the Year 2014, at a very elaborate ceremony held in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.
The three finalists for the award were: Ivorian player and Manchester City midfielder, Yaya Toure; Nigeria’s goalkeeper and captain, Vincent Enyeama, who also plies his professional trade with Lille OSC of France; and Gabonese born Borussia Dortmund striker, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The atmosphere at the venue of the event was quite electrifying that cool evening. One would be forgiven in thinking it was a musical performance as some Nigerian top artistes entertained the guests. Globacom Limited (Glo), one of the leading mobile telecom operators in the country, sponsored the Glo-CAF Awards, which is regarded as the ‘Oscars of African Football.’
Many Nigerian football lovers were confident that Enyeama, 32, the second most capped player in the country, who made a debut for the national team in 2002, would win the trophy, on account of his excellent performance last year. He captained the team to victory in the 2013 edition of the African Cup of Nations and took Nigeria to the second round of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, in Brazil. He also had a spectacular goalkeeping record at his French club where he played 1,062 minutes without conceding a goal, during the 2013-14 Ligue 1 season.
Similarly, Aubameyang, 25, the first Gabonese footballer to play in the German Bundesliga, had an outstanding outing at his club last year. The son of a former Gabonese international footballer, Pierre Aubameyang, and Spanish mother, scored his country’s first Olympic goal at the 2012 London Olympic Games. He was also voted Best African Player in Lique 1 in 2012-2013 season. All these sterling qualities must have won the hearts of the selection committee.
However, it was Toure, 31, who eventually clinched the trophy, making history as the first African player to win the award for the fourth consecutive time, having won in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Cameroonian legend and Everton striker Samuel Eto’o is the only other player that has won the award four times, although not in successive years. Had Enyeama emerged the winner, he would have joined the likes of Thomas Nkono of Cameroon and Badou Zaki, a Moroccan, who are the only goalkeepers that have so far won the trophy.
But Toure’s win seems to be well deserved, as the gangling midfielder, who stands 6ft 3in in his socks, was nominated for the award for the key role he played in winning the Premier League and League Cup for Man City. He netted scored 20 goals in City’s title-winning campaign and has nine goals in 26 appearances for his club so far this season.
He also helped his country, Ivory Coast, to qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, scheduled to take place in Equatorial Guinea from January 17, 2015 to February 8, 2015. He has two silver medals to show for his previous efforts at the Nations Cup. Toure captained Ivory Coast, currently ranked third best team in Africa and 28 in the world, in two games, at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, where the West African country narrowly missed out on a place in the second round. Toure made the initial FIFA shortlist for the 2014 Ballon D’Or prize in October, before the number was whittled down to three: Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Manuel Neuer.
Toure, who has played for several top clubs in the world including Olympiacos in Greece, Beveren in Belgium, Metalurh Donetsk in Ukraine, AS Monaco in France, Barcelona in Spain, and currently Man City in England, started his playing career at Ivorian club ASEC Mimosas, where he made his debut at the age of 18. Work permit palaver prevented him from playing for Arsenal. He ended City’s 35-year wait for a trophy with a 1-0 win over Stoke City in 2011, wining the hearts of his fans.
Football runs in the family as his older brother and Ivorian international, Kolo Touré, who now plays for Liverpool, once played with him in Man City. Toure began his football career as a defender, before he moved to the midfield. Considered one of the best midfielders in the world today, he is nicknamed the ‘human train’ due to his speed and stamina.
There is no controverting the fact that Toure, who wears number 42 shirt, a reverse of 24, which he sported while at Barcelona, is a talented footballer. His win is therefore well deserved and he will continue to rule the midfield for some time.