As of March 2020, there are 2,095 billionaires in the world. Of that number, there’s exactly one professional footballer, if Forbes is to be believed – Cristiano Ronaldo. He joins golf’s great Tiger Woods and boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather as the only athletes to earn US$1 Billion. Ronaldo is the first to do so in a team sport, and also the first ever footballer in history to do so during his career.
He has over 239 million followers on Instagram, the most followed athlete and person. Almost 138 million follow his Facebook page. Another 88 million follow him on Twitter. That’s easily over 450 million people worldwide in total that watch his every move and tune in to every status update and tweet.
Not bad for a poor kid from Madeira. And to think that the world was almost robbed of his talent.
“There is no harm in dreaming of becoming the world’s best player.”
Born Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro, CR7 is the youngest child of a cook and a municipal gardener and part-time kit man. Ronaldo, named after US President Ronald Reagan, grew up in an impoverished home where he shared a room with all his siblings. But he showed promise very early on. His most-prized possession was a ball his mother gave him.
At the age of 7, Ronaldo was already playing for amateur team Andorinha. After his stint there, he played another couple of years with Nacional. By the time he was 12, he’d been signed by Sporting CP for a fee of £1,500 (around US$1900), eventually moving near Lisbon to join the club’s football academy.
At 14, Ronaldo quit school, with his mother’s blessing, to focus on playing football semi-professionally.
“I want to consistently play well and win titles. I’m only at the beginning.”
Even though it looked like the football gods smiled upon Ronaldo, his young career was not as quite smooth sailing as one would hope. A year after leaving school, he was diagnosed with tachycardia, or a racing heart. If left untreated, the condition can lead to a myriad of complications including fainting and thrombosis.
In Ronaldo’s case, it would have forced him to give up O Jogo Bonito. And that just won’t do.
So he underwent surgery to alter his resting heart rate. A few days after being discharged from the hospital, he was back on the field. It wasn’t for naught. At only 18 years old, Cristiano Ronaldo would sign with Manchester United for, at the time, a record-breaking £12 million (over US$15 million in today’s value) in 2003. He would go on to score the club’s first three goals at the 2004 FA Cup Final and help them win the championship.
On the Rise…
Manchester was just the start of the Portuguese teenager’s record-setting career. He helped the team win the Football Association Challenge Cup (the FA Cup, the oldest national football competition in the world) in his first season. He also steered them to three successive Premier League titles. He was instrumental in Man Utd’s wins at the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup. Four years after signing with them, he set the franchise record for goals scored. At 23, he won his first Ballon d’Or, the oldest and most prestigious individual award for football players.
But even with all the successes, or perhaps because of it, Ronaldo was not lacking in haters.
“Your love makes me strong, your hate makes me unstoppable.”
In 2009, on the eve of a very expensive possible transfer to Spanish club, Real Madrid, sports pundits and fans alike were throwing jabs at Ronaldo.
He didn’t have the confidence. He had too much hubris weighing him down. His attacks were indirect. His free kicks were off-course. He was too emotional, his tantrums ever-present. He was immature.
Unsporting. Classless. Selfish. Arrogant. Talented but with an abominable attitude. The man who knew he would be great but perhaps had peaked.
How did Ronaldo take all of it?
As he told The Times, it only helped in pushing him to get the best out of himself. “I don’t mind people hating me, because it pushes me.” Ronaldo admits he wasn’t very humble, but he was always learning and always seeking ways to improve. He certainly never made any secret of how intensely he trains and keeps himself in shape for the game.
“Talent without working hard is nothing.”
Cristiano Ronaldo’s exercise program is strict. He alternates heavy cardio and extensive weight training. What does a typical training day look like?
The Cristiano Ronaldo Warm Up
CR7 is a big fan of warming up, and he is not wrong. Warm ups help the body become ready for exercise by increasing its oxygen needs. It also helps in keeping one flexible and enhances muscle efficiency, both of which help in reducing injury risk.
As a footballer, Rolando placed particular focus on his legs.
· Hip twisters
· Side-lying clam
· Side-lying T-stretch
· Bodyweight Squat
· Reverse lunge
He would do 1 set of 40- to 50-second reps without resting between exercises. He took a 10-second rest before starting work on his legs.
The Cristiano Ronaldo Leg Workout
After warming up, Ronaldo’s leg workout consist of the following:
· Single-leg glute bridge
· Reverse lunge with dumbbells
· Drop squat
He’d do 1 set each of 30-40 second reps each side with no rest between. This set works the quads, glutes and hamstrings.
To build strength, he would do 1 set of 50-second reps each side of the following:
· Side-lying leg raise
· Walking lunge with dumbbells
· Jump squats
To finish, 1 set of 40-second reps with no rest between:
· Cross-back lunge
· Elevated split squat
· Bodyweight squat
· Jump squat
Typical 5-Day Workout Plan
Monday: Circuit Training
Wednesday: Circuit Training
Friday: Core Exercises
Sunday: Cardio, Resistance Sprinting
By mixing up his routines to include football practice, cardio and weight training, Ronaldo stayed in top shape.
On rest days, Ronaldo chose active recovery and indulged in swimming sessions. He’s also been known to enjoy a sports massage.
Of course, not everyone has a five-man sports massage therapy team at their beck and call. For those who are limited by time and budget, there’s the alternative of using a massage gunlike the HYDRAGUN.
Ronaldo didn’t only pay attention to exercise. He also took meticulous care of his diet. A typical day’s menu included:
Breakfast – whole grain cereal, egg whites, fruit juice (pear, apple or pineapple), regular coffee, cheese and cold cuts, pastries and fruit
Snack #1– fresh bread and sardines (or a tuna roll)
Lunch – lean protein (fish or chicken), whole wheat pasta, green vegetables, hard-boiled eggs and tomatoes
Snack #2 – protein shake
Dinner – Steak, side salad, chicken breast (or turkey), fruit, one glass of wine
Dessert – a slice of cake or some chocolate
He was also known to indulge in his favorite Portuguese dish, Bacalhau à Brás. The dish is made up of shredded salted cod, onions and chopped fried potatoes mixed with scrambled eggs.
On top of his diet and exercise, Ronaldo also notes that mental well-being is equally important. He once said, “learn to train your mind as well as your body. Mental strength is just as important as physical strength and will help you achieve your goals.”
“We don’t want to tell our dreams. We want to show them.”
With a winning mindset and a regimented training and nutrition program, nothing can stop Cristiano Ronaldo.
The transfer to Real Madrid came to fruition in 2009. It was worth an astounding £80 million (around US$100 million). While playing for Real, Ronaldo added the following titles to his collection:
· 2 La Liga Championships
· 2 Copas del Rey
· 4 UEFA Champions League titles
He became the club’s top goal scorer with a record 450 goals. He also came close to winning the coveted Ballon d’Or three times, emerging as runner-up to Lionel Messi all three instances.
He would eventually succeed and win the Ballon d’Or back-to-back twice – from 2013-2014 and then again in 2016-2017. He also bagged the European Golden Shoe award four times.
Cristiano is the most popular sportsman today. Currently ranked 4th in most career goals scored, he is widely regarded as the GOAT. No small feat considering he is already in his mid-30’s.
Cristiano Ronaldo once said, “I’m living a dream I never want to wake up from.” His football reign began 16 years ago. And with dedication and constant reinvention, the end to the Ronaldo domination is still not in sight.