It has been almost 18 years since an insensitive teenager named Cristiano Ronaldo – accompanied by his mother – signed with Manchester United. Tony Blair was Prime Minister. Prince Harry had just left Eton and was in Australia on his gap year.
How life changes. And every now and then the circle turns.
Ronaldo is back at Old Trafford. The difference now is that he gets £385,000 a week and mother Dolores is no longer always by his side.
The 36-year-old Portuguese star has his own offspring of four children and a Spanish partner, Georgina Rodriguez, 27.
And Ronaldo Family is like no other. Three children were born to a surrogate mother, while Miss Rodriguez gave birth to their youngest, Alana Martina.
An 18-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo first came here in 2003 as a pimply youth accompanied by his mother Dolores to sign with Manchester United (pictured together)
Ronaldo’s exceptional fatherhood journey began in 2010 when Cristiano Jr was born in San Diego, California. The birth came out of the blue and was all the more surprising because the footballer was dating Russian model Irina Shayk.
Ronaldo confirmed that Miss Shayk was not the mother and said: “As agreed with the baby’s mother, who prefers to keep her identity a secret, my son will be under my exclusive custody.”
Father and identikit son Cristianinho (little Cristiano), who is now 11, lived together, but the daily care was the responsibility of Grandma Dolores.
That arrangement continued until 2016 when Miss Rodriguez, a model who worked at a Gucci branch in Madrid, appeared on the scene.
A year later, Ronaldo used a surrogate to have twins Eva and Mateo. Again, the births were in California. And as if that didn’t seem bizarre enough, a month later he and Miss Rodriguez announced they were expecting. Four months later, she gave birth to daughter Alana.
2021: Now 18 years later, he’s back at Old Trafford as a father of four who is the smoothing king of a £1bn empire and paid £385,000 a week. Pictured: His 2003 Man U debut
TEAM SHOT: Ronaldo is bringing his four children, Cristiano Jr, twins Eva and Mateo, and youngest, Alana Martina, as well as his Spanish partner, Georgina Rodriguez, 27.
The family may be an extraordinary, very modern family, Cristiano Ronaldo is never a man to do things half way. A look at his gilded, blingy world through social media photos reveals a life spent in private jets, multimillion-pound yachts and celebrated by fans wherever he goes.
“Cristiano is a great father,” says a friend. “He sees fatherhood as his greatest privilege.”
Certainly, his children are absurdly privileged. Their father is estimated to be worth £1bn thanks to big money football contracts, brand endorsements and his own company, CR7, which owns everything from aftershaves to hotels to underpants. But Ronaldo wants to keep his youngsters humble.
A few years ago, he took Cristianinho to see the small flat he lived in when he moved from Madeira Island to the Portuguese capital Lisbon to try to make it as a footballer.
“My son turned to me and said, ‘Dad. Have you lived here?” He couldn’t believe it,” Ronaldo recalls. “They think everything is easy in this world. The quality of life, the houses, the cars, the clothes… They think it’s all thrown into their laps.’
Life in Manchester is expected to initially take place at the city’s five-star Lowry hotel until the family finds a permanent home. Most likely it will be in the so-called ‘Golden Triangle’ area of Cheshire, which includes the towns and villages of Wilmslow, Knutsford, Alderley Edge and Prestbury.
Wayne Rooney lives there, as do Manchester United players Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford.
Ronaldo used to live there: he sold the mansion he owned in the area during his first stay at Old Trafford, before moving to Real Madrid in 2009.
One requirement is that the new premises must have space for a number of its 19 supercars, including two Ferraris, two McLarens and two Rolls-Royces.
Conveniently, the area is less than 15 minutes from Manchester Airport where Ronaldo can use his private jet. Friends say the kids probably go to one of the paid schools in the area. It is said that a factor in Ronaldo’s surprising move was that he wants them to get “an English education.”
One possible school is Ryley’s £12,000 a year, although there are many good secondary schools in the area. Should Ronaldo and Miss Rodriguez decide to marry during their stay in Manchester, the Salford Catholic Cathedral would be a popular choice.
GETTING ON THE STYLE: The footballer with former model Georgina, who worked in a Gucci branch in Madrid when she met the footballer in 2016
While Grandma Dolores remains in her home in Madeira, the rest of the Ronaldo family will join the player in Manchester once all visas are approved. Ms Rodriguez hinted she can’t wait, yesterday posting a photo of a Louis Vuitton suitcase on Instagram as if to message her that she’s packed and on her way.
Friends say Ronaldo’s personal assistant, Ricky Regufe, can join him in England, while his mega-dollar agent Jorge Mendes remains in Portugal, after he choreographed a transfer deal to match that of Ronaldo’s big rival, Lionel Messi, who last month signed a contract with Paris Saint-Germain on a net salary of £30million.
It is not known whether Ronaldo’s close friend Bedr Hari, a Moroccan kickboxer once described as the footballer’s ‘cuddly friend’, will move to England.
It’s possible some of the drama behind Ronaldo’s transfer could be featured in Miss Rodriguez’s upcoming fly-on-the-wall documentary on Netflix.
An influencer with 24 million online followers – more than any woman in Spain – she started filming for the program in recent weeks.
Ronaldo is twice as old as when he first donned the Manchester United red shirt. However, he has the body of a much younger man thanks to his relentless fitness regime.
STRONG MATCHING: Ronaldo shows off his physique in a fun click with son Cristiano Jr.
He avoids alcohol and sugar and eats a high-protein diet, with lots of whole-grain carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables. He has a personal dietitian and prefers six small meals a day (cod, steak, or egg based) — one every three to four hours. He has described chicken as his “magic” food.
He combines his strict nutritional routine with a grueling training method, focusing primarily on his abs.
It certainly succeeded, with 334 million admiring followers on Instagram – more than any celebrity. American singer Ariana Grande has only 262 million and Kim Kardashian 248 million.
Ronaldo’s move to Manchester United is sure to increase that number. And of course that translates into more money.
Despite the assumptions that he will get a share of the sales of replica team shirts, he will not. All the money will go to United’s shirt maker Adidas, who will benefit from the £100million deal with the Premier League club. Manchester United will sell other Ronaldo merchandise directly, which is likely to boost US owners’ revenues by millions.
The family’s move to Manchester is expected to see them settle in the so-called ‘Golden Triangle’ area of Cheshire – the towns and villages of Wilmslow, Knutsford, Alderley Edge and Prestbury. (Photo: Handbag hint from partner Georgina: we’re on our way!)
Ronaldo himself has lucrative deals with companies such as hair care brand Clear, football scoring app Livescore and the Madeira Tourist Board. In fact, according to sources, he is so “approved” that he has to turn down many deals with a lot of money. And after setting up his company name CR7 when he was a teenager, the star has started his own company that brings in millions of pounds every year.
Central to the brand identity is that Ronaldo wears the number 7 shirt for the team he plays for. However, another striker, Uruguayan Edinson Cavani, has that number at United, so Ronaldo may have to pick another one, as he had to do when he first moved to Real Madrid.
CR7 has a range of aftershaves, the latest of which, Play It Cool, launched last week. CR7 Game On, an eau de toilette, is marketed as ‘a casual evening fragrance for the man who wants to own the night, with a bold and optimistic spirit’.
The player also has a range of glasses and sunglasses, which he says are “suitable for all generations”, and a hotel chain called Pestana CR7. The latter in New York’s Times Square opened last month and has expanded its portfolio in Madrid, Madeira and Lisbon.
Which leaves an obvious question… will Brand Ronaldo outlast the Manchester player himself with the establishment of one of his luxury hotels in the city?
The answer is “most likely,” given the star’s never-consciously-underselling life philosophy is, “I’m living a dream from which I never want to wake up.”