Cristiano Ronaldo’s seven moments at Sporting

Everything you always dreamed of knowing about Cristiano Ronaldo but never dared to ask. By Rui Miguel Tovar.

Football

Rui Miguel Tovar

Rui Miguel Tovar

Everything you always dreamed of knowing about Cristiano Ronaldo but never dared to ask. By Rui Miguel Tovar.

Chapter 17. The seven moments in Sporting

For days, our Ronaldice has been about the best goals of his career and we even divided it into seven, his number of (almost) always. Treatises are written and praises are mixed to evaluate the seven best goals for the Portuguese team and the best seven as a luxury emigrant. So what about Sporting?

calm down hey hey, today is the day. Instead of Ronaldo’s best seven goals for Sporting, we chose the seven best moments because he is more personal and less known to the general public. Come on? From the first game to the last. That is, from 11 October 1997 to 6 August 2003. In those five years, almost six, Ronaldo’s magic crosses peaks of genius, already threatening a peculiar style.

TORREENSE, MAY 16, 1998

Believe me, it’s Ronaldo’s only title at Sporting. And it’s not even a national title, just regional. From Lisbon, of course. The objective is achieved in its first season, in 1997-98. The start is majestic, with the unbelievable record of six goals in just 27 minutes vs Olivais and Moscavide (16:0). It is the second round of the first phase of the Lisbon regional, children’s level A, on 26 October 1997.

In the next game, hat trick vs Frielas Bridge (13:0). And then the first goal in the derby vs Benfica, in a 3:1 defeat. Halfway through, an absence due to injury. Do you know how? Ronaldo is called up to the Lisbon under-12 team and contracts a muscle ache for having been training the goalkeepers for more than half an hour with shots on goal.

Further on, qualification for the final phase, along with Benfica, Belenenses, Torreense and Estoril. Sporting is the champion with two games to go and then the tournament ends without defeats (9-1-0) plus 54:6 in goals. Of those 54, Ronaldo accumulates 10. At the title party, in Torres Vedras, a goal at 6:0. And yes, they also score against Benfica, one away (2:2) and another at home (4:0).

COVA DA PIEDADE, DECEMBER 6, 1998

It is already known that numbers are sacred to many players. The most popular of all is 10. More than a number, a brand image. Just look at the undisputed two best ever, Pele and Maradona. Game over.

When he arrives at Lar do Player at Estádio José Alvalade and starts to dazzle from day one, Ronaldo wears the number 10. The best of the bunch, inherently. In the following season, in 1998-99, the coach Luís Dias gave him the 9 in a rout against Cova da Piedade by 6:1. And, in the second round, in the field of Cova da Piedade, the 7 becomes his number.

It is he who scores the first goal this morning, in the 7th minute. It ends 9:0 with four goals from Edgar Marcelino and Ronaldo’s 7 goes unnoticed. In fact, it is a complicated time for the young Madeiran, full of homesickness and nostalgia for his mother. So much so that he plays less than usual and even takes some punishments, such as sitting on the bench for an entire game (vs Barreirense, in Barreiro). It is the (hard) culture of learning for full maturation.


Ronaldo kisses the ball before scoring a penalty in the Euro 2020 group stage game against France in Hungary.

Everything you always dreamed of knowing about Cristiano Ronaldo but never dared to ask. By Rui Miguel Tovar.


STAR, SEPTEMBER 19, 1999

It’s already the third season at Sporting, the one that started with a job proposal from Benfica to mother Dolores in order to pressure Ronaldo to change clubs. Sporting reacts immediately, through its sporting father Aurélio Pereira, and takes a new contract there with an improvement in salary and more air tickets to Funchal.

Are you already? Nooooo, there is more. Two days after signing the contract renewal, Ronaldo is awarded the captain’s armband. It’s a debut and the truth is an unmissable moment because we’re talking about someone who captains Manchester United, Real Madrid and, of course, Portugal. It all starts at Sporting, more precisely on field number 2 of Estádio José Gomes, in Amadora, vs Estrela. Sporting lost 3:2 and Ronaldo scored the point with a penalty.

ESTORIL, NOVEMBER 26, 2000

Funny detail, Coca-Cola sponsors Sporting’s youth A. The jersey with the number 7, that one, travels from player to player without a point of reference. Until he accommodates himself to Ronaldo’s body, after an encore vs Elétrico Ponte Sor (3:1).

Two weeks later, two more goals, now vs Estoril. And with the number 7 shirt. It’s the most special game of the season. For the win, yes, of course. For the encore, too, obviously. The special one is the visit of mother Dolores. One of many spectators in the vicinity of Estádio José Alvalade, on a morning of persistent rain. To Jornal do Sporting, the hero of the day would say his justice. ‘The muddy field made our mission difficult, but we were humble, hardworking and patient to reach the victory, very special for the two goals in the presence of my mother.’

U. COIMBRA, OCTOBER 20, 2001

Time progresses and Ronaldo is increasingly visible, whether in Sporting or in the national team. The 2001-02 season is going great and he plays for the first time with the senior team, unofficially, vs Atlético. It’s 15 August 2001 and Bölöni is on the bench enjoying the moment of a team with second lines. Ronaldo enters at half-time and scores a goal – the figure of the day is Lourenço, with three, and the best on the field is Hugo Viana, launched at 6 and quickly adapted to 10.

October is a great month. It starts on the 9th with the debut in Portugal’s sub17, and with a goal – from a direct free-kick, vs Holland (3:0 in Covilhã). It continues on the 20th, against U. Coimbra, in the Brejão field, in Sarilhos Pequenos, where Ronaldo scores the fastest goal of his life, at 40 seconds. The ball goes out and suddenly 1:0. It ends 3:0, the captain of that Sporting is one Miguel Garcia, later known as the hero of Alkmaar for the victorious header in the 120 minutes-and-such en route to the final of the UEFA Cup.

STAR, APRIL 7, 2002

Ronaldo’s contact with the first team in August 2001 gives him status and more. Cristiano makes friends and one of them is striker Niculae. Seriously injured in December, the Romanian’s life is now on crutches and watching Sporting from the outside, as one more spectator. In March 2002, he watches the 1: 0 vs Vitória FC, in Sarilhos Pequenos. The goal is Ronaldo’s and dedicated to Niculae with a run towards him.

In a month, perhaps the goal of his life. Second half off ball and goal. So, no more, no less. Genius. Aurélio Pereira is present and will never be forgotten. “Of all of Cris’ goals, it’s the one that moves me the most.” On that day, Sporting lost 5:4 vs Estrela.


Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates a goal against the Netherlands national team.  EPA/OLIVER BERG

Stories about the lesser known side of the Portuguese player. By Rui Miguel Tovar.


BENFICA, 3 MAY 2003

It is Ronaldo’s only season in Sporting’s first squad, that of 2002-03. And between the debuts in UEFA, 1st division and Portuguese Cup plus the five goals spread over 1392 minutes, there are two regrets. The first is that he was an unused substitute in the Supercup, in August 2002, against Leixões. The medal belongs to him, yes, but it’s not the same thing. On that night when Quaresma ended up as team captain, Bölöni brought in Danny, César Prates and Carlos Martins – on the bench for the 90 minutes, goalkeeper Nuno Santos plus Pedro Barbosa and Ronaldo.

If this hurt still goes, the second is that it hits you badly. We are already in 2003, more specifically the 3 May. It’s derby day for the 30th round of the 1st division. With Estádio da Luz under construction for Euro-2004, Benfica plays at Jamor as a loaner. Sporting goes there and wins 2:1. Ronaldo is called up and then is out of 18. He is then caught by the television cameras crying on the floor. Never, to this day, has Ronaldo stepped on Jamor’s pitch.

(Author writes according to the old spelling.)

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About Banner Leon

Videogames entered his life in the late '80s, at the time of the first meeting with Super Mario Bros, and even today they make it a permanent part, after almost 30 years. Pros and defects: he manages to finish Super Mario Bros in less than 5 minutes but he has never finished Final Fight with a credit ... he's still trying.

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