But Cristiano Ronaldo is in the starting line-up for the ﬁrst time, and at 17 years, eight months and two days old he makes history as Sporting’s youngest-ever goalscorer. He scores "a monumental, majestic, unbelievable goal … there are not sufﬁcient adjectives to describe this young Sporting prodigy’s achievement," scream the SportTV commentators.
It’s the 34th minute: Ronaldo gets a back-heel from Tonito just over the halfway line, he dodges past two defenders, slaloming back and forth for some 60 metres; he follows it up with a 'bicicleta' on the edge of the area to wrong-foot another opponent and slides it smoothly past Moreirense goalkeeper Joao Ricardo, who makes a desperate dash out into the box.
Cristiano tears off his shirt, hugs his team-mates and runs towards the stands. (Coach Laszlo) Boloni celebrates with his colleagues in the dugout. He is the one who took the risk and changed Ronaldo’s position. It’s a risk which has paid off in spades.
The following day Ronaldo dominates Portugal’s front pages with his ‘monumental' goal. The journalists milk the opportunity to tell his story, from his ﬁrst street games in the ‘slums’ of Madalena in Santo Antonio. They interview his childhood coaches. They try to get hold of his father. The poor man has only seen the highlights – he followed the match on the radio because Andorinha were playing at the same time. He says that everyone on the island has mentioned his son’s success and they joke that he should see if Sporting will loan him to Andorinha so that they can win something for a change.
|Ronaldo dominated Portugal's front pages with his 'monumental' goal ... But it's not just the Portuguese press that are interested in the newcomer's profile - Ronaldo is also making waves across Europe|
Jose Dinis maintains that his son is a force of nature who has played ball day and night since he was a little kid. He hopes he will have a great future and will keep maturing as a person as much as a player. He has no desire to be famous simply because he is the No. 28’s father, but he deﬁnitely won’t be missing his son’s next match. He’s already bought a plane ticket to see him at Belenenses – his ﬁrst trip to Lisbon in six years.
It's not just the Portuguese press that are interested in the newcomer’s proﬁle. Ronaldo is also making waves across Europe, thanks to his goals and his name – let’s not forget that the original Ronaldo (Ronaldo Nazario de Lima) is enjoying his umpteenth comeback and has just helped Brazil win the Korea-Japan World Cup on June 30, 2002. He is the tournament top scorer with eight goals. Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport is already talking about the ‘new Ronaldo’ on its front page.
What does the kid from Madeira think about such a comparison? ‘I would never dare to think about it. Real Madrid’s Ronaldo is a superstar, he’s the best player in the world. He’s my favourite player.’
Cristiano’s performance in the ﬁrst team has been outstanding. He has become the fans’ golden boy.
- Luca Caioli's book, Ronaldo: The Obsession for Perfection, is published by Corinthian Books and is out now. Order a UK copy here! Order a USA copy here!
With every extract published, Goal.com will be giving away one copy of Luca Caoili's new book. To have a chance of winning an ebook or hard copy of Ronaldo: The Obsession for Perfection, answer the following question: Following his treble against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, how many hat-tricks has Cristiano Ronaldo scored in La Liga? Send answers to email@example.com - the winner will be announced in next Friday's extract.
Last week's winner: Janelle Villadiego