Rio Ferdinand says he saw “the penny dropping” for Cristiano Ronaldo early into his Manchester United career, with the youngster having joined more concerned with “showmanship” than end product.
The Portuguese starlet was a box of tricks upon arriving in English football, with his quick feet and penchant for the spectacular quickly endearing him to the Old Trafford faithful.
He was, however, to offer only fleeting glimpses of the ability that would one day make him the most expensive player in world football and a four-time Ballon d’Or winner.
For all of the neat tricks and clever footwork, Ronaldo did not break into double figures in terms of goals scored until his third season with the Red Devils.
He was, however, heading in the right direction by then and was morphing more into a dangerous forward than sprightly winger.
Ferdinand says experienced heads around him at United, including Gary Neville, helped to put Ronaldo on the path to greatness, with some “tough love” transforming him from a showman into a “game-changer”.
Ferdinand told FourFourTwo’s ‘Relentless’ documentary: "He liked taking liberties when he first came, taking people on, making people look silly and doing skills before coming back to beat them again
"His whole thing when he first signed was about showmanship, he'd listen to the fans when he'd do that bit of skill, when he'd do that step-over.
"Whereas then there was that turning point around that time when it was about goals, assists. Then he became the game-changer, rather than the showman.
"That's that maturity and the penny dropping."
Ronaldo would go on to net 23 times in the 2006-07 campaign, before hitting 42 goals in all competitions the following season.
He was very much on Real Madrid’s radar by then and after a big-money move in the summer of 2009, he has gone on to become the all-time leading marksman at one of world football’s most prestigious clubs – netting at a remarkable rate of better than a goal a game.