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Professional soccer player. Born Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro on February 5, 1985 in Madeira, Portugal, a small island off the western coast of the country. Ronaldo, the youngest of Maria Dolores dos Santos and Jose Dinis Aveiro`s four children, was named after Ronald Reagan, a favorite actor of his father`s.
Ronaldo grew up in a largely working class neighborhood, his home a small tin roofed shack that overlooked the ocean. His early life was shaped by hardship; his father, a gardener, often drank too much, and eventually died from kidney problems in 2005. To help keep the children fed, and maintain some financial stability, Ronaldo`s mother worked as a cook and cleaning person.
It was through his dad`s work as an equipment manager at a boy`s club that Ronaldo was first introduced to the game of soccer. By the time he was 10, he was already recognized as a phenomenon - a kid who ate, slept, and drank the game. "All he wanted to do as a boy was play football," his godfather, Fernao Sousa, recalled for British reporters. "He loved the game so much he`d miss meals or escape out of his bedroom window with a ball when he was supposed to be doing his homework."
By his early teens, Ronaldo`s talent and legend had grown considerably. After a stint with Nacional da liha da Madeira, he signed with Sporting Portugal in 2001. That same year, at the tender age of 16, Ronaldo turned heads with a mesmerizing performance against Manchester United, wowing even his opponents with his footwork and deft skill. He made such an impression that a number of United players asked their manager to try and sign the young player. It wasn`t long before the club paid Ronaldo`s team more than £12 million for his services - a record fee for a player of his age.
Ronaldo, however, did not disappoint. He showed his promise early on in the 2004 FA Cup final, scoring the team`s first three goals and helping them capture the championship. In 2008, a year after signing a five-year, £31 million contract, Ronaldo again justified the high tab when he put together one of the club`s finest seasons in history, setting a franchise record for goals scored (42), and earning himself the FIFA World of the Year honor. In all, Ronaldo helped steer Manchester United to three Premier league titles.
But Ronaldo`s time in England was marred by his mother`s 2007 struggle with breast cancer as well as his father`s death from alcohol-related illness. The latter was especially hard for Ronaldo as the two had been close, and the young athlete had often pushed for his father to enter rehab and address his drinking. His father, however, never accepted the offer.
Departure to Real MadridAs lauded as Ronaldo was on the field for United, his commitment to the club came under constant question. Speculation swirled that he wanted to play elsewhere. So in 2009, when Real Madrid agreed to pay United a record $131 million for the chance to sign him, nobody was all that surprised to see Ronaldo leave the club.
"I know that they are going to demand a lot of me to be successful at the club and I know that I`m going to have much more pressure than at Manchester United because I was there for many years," Ronaldo told reporters. "But it means a new challenge and is going to help me be the best footballer."
In addition to his FIFA World Player of the year award, Ronaldo has also won the coveted Ballon d`OR, the Golden Boot, and been named the UEFA Club Forward of the Year, among other honors during the course of his career.