2003 Interview With an 18-Year-Old Cristiano Ronaldo Told Us All We Needed to Know About His Future

Jamie Spencer

'A tall, lanky kid wearing frayed gangsta pants and a dark blue shirt with orange and yellow stripes' is how FourFourTwo began their feature on an 18-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo back in 2003.

The winger had joined Manchester United for £12.24m as a relative unknown just a few months earlier, and was still to score his first goal for the Old Trafford club when the November issue of the magazine went on sale in October.

A young Ronaldo, complete with the regrettable spaghetti strand hair he was sporting at the time, shared the cover of the magazine with his Brazilian namesake, Real Madrid's R9 Galactico

Little was it known back then, the contents of his interview would tell us all we needed to know about the incredible things this young boy from Portugal would achieve over the course of his career.

The FourFourTwo meeting with the young Ronaldo took place during 2003's August international break. He made his senior Portugal debut in a friendly against Kazakhstan that week, and had actually only played one game for Manchester United up to that point.

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo (
Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo (

Wearing the iconic number seven shirt vacated by David Beckham, he had dazzled with fancy footwork against Bolton Wanderers as a substitute on the opening day of the 2003/04 Premier League season. It was enough to know he was a special talent, though, and so he was immediately propelled into a bright media spotlight.

"Is this interview really for an English magazine? I'm becoming important aren't I?" were the first quotes printed in the four-page piece.

"From a very early age all I ever thought about was playing football. I used to walk around with a ball under my arm, just in case my friends turned up. From morning till night all I wanted to do was play football. And if there was no ball, we'd play with whatever was around - bottles or stones," he said, giving an early insight into the passion for the game that was instilled in him.

"Everyone used to tell me that I was better than all of the rest of the kids on Madeira put together. But I've never paid much attention to that kind of talk."

Although he later went on to reveal his nerves when he trained with Sporting CP's first-team for the first time, Ronaldo, even back then, never let hype, expectation and pressure affect him. He "wasn't bothered" when the Portuguese press reported that a Manchester United scout had been in attendance for his first Sporting start, a night on which he scored his first two goals.

Even when the teenager knew there was a chance he would join United ahead of facing the club in a friendly in 2003, he was more interested in "being able to play in the first game in that wonderful stadium" as Sporting officially opened the newly built Estadio Jose Alvalade.

He took it all in his stride. The story about how he came to wear United's iconic number seven shirt rather than his preferred 28 has been told and told again over the years. But even after he took the high profile shirt at the behest of his manager, 18-year-old Ronaldo's sole focus was on being himself and making sure he took his talent as far as he possibly could.

"Beckham is one of the best players in the world, perhaps the best crosser and free-kick taker, but that doesn't mean that I live to live with his ghost while I'm at his old club. Beckham is Beckham; I am me, I'm just a kid who's looking for his own path, his own space," he said of taking over the former England captain's shirt, the shirt worn by Eric Cantona and George Best, too.

"I don't feel the weight of the 'Number 7' on my shoulders - no number is going to have that effect on me. But I agree that the 'Number 7' is special, I'd be stupid not to recognise that.

Manchester United fans wearing new boy Cristiano Ronaldo and recently departed David Beckham shirts
Manchester United fans wearing new boy Cristiano Ronaldo and recently departed David Beckham shirts

"When a player comes to a club the size of Manchester United, he can start to think about winning everything. In fact, he has no choice but to think about winning everything."

That winning mentality that would deliver an FA Cup trophy in his debut season in England, followed by three Premier League titles, a Champions League crown and Club World Cup success with United, before a world record move to Real Madrid, La Liga glory, two more Champions Leagues, four Ballon d'Or awards and well over 500 career goals.

Ronaldo was always destined to be the best. Looking back now, maybe we shouldn't be at all surprised that he's taken 'best' to a whole new level.

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