LONDON, England – People ask me about Cristiano Ronaldo, who this week won European Footballer of the year, all the time. He's Portugese, I'm Portugese, and I have had the pleasure of interviewing him on several occasions.
Unfortunately, in England Ronaldo's image has become tainted because the media magnifies his odd rant or dive on the pitch. But, in my book, he is still a decent young man who has kept his feet on the ground, despite all the fame and fortune he has experienced.
I can tell you, every time I have met the 23-year-old star he has been extremely polite and considerate. Of course he has expensive tastes and splurges unnecessarily on luxury items at times - but then when you earn an estimated $150,000 per week, you are entitled.
Furthermore, he is a young man who prizes his family and has helped them in more ways than one ever since becoming wealthy. He has bought houses for his mother and siblings and has tried to help his sister's singing career.
Ronaldo has also given funds to various charities - so it would be fair to say that however much he earns, he has never forgotten the people closest to him or those less fortunate.
It's probably because he was born into a poor family in the island of Madeira in 1985. From a young age, Cristiano soon exhibited phenomenal talent and moved to Lisbon to play for Sporting's famed academy at the age of 12.
He was teased and often ostracized in the Portugese capital because of his strange accent and skinny frame, but we all know he overcame those insecurities to become the best player on the planet.
Ronaldo was unquestionably the best player in the world during the 2007/08 season and deserved the Ballon d'Or award, much like he deserves the FIFA World Player of the Year award, to be decided later this year. Forty-two goals scored plus many more assists to his colleagues made him the most dangerous player on the planet.
The only blip in his season was Portugal's poor Euro 2008 campaign, where he failed to impress, but it was later revealed that he was playing with an ankle injury.
Of course he does have challengers to his crown: sooner or later Lionel Messi will win football's highest accolades. The young Argentine also has aboundless talent and is reaching his peak.
But for now, Ronaldo is king.
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