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Cristiano Ronaldo’s secret Godfather

Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz worked with Cristiano Ronaldo both at Manchester United, and later at the Portugal national team.
Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz worked with Cristiano Ronaldo both at Manchester United, and later at the Portugal national team.
Raj Das
ANALYST
Modified 22 Jun 2020
Feature

Cristiano Ronaldo is a worldwide sensation today. His goals, silverware and achievements are a testament to his sheer quality and professionalism. During his playing days at Manchester United and later at Real Madrid, the five time Ballon d'Or winner established himself as the most coveted football player in the world, with every team wishing they had a talisman like him in their team.

Ronaldo's big-match performances, especially in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds, are a stuff of legend; a cherished memory for every football lover, not to mention his own legions of fans.

Carlos Queiroz - The man who made Cristiano Ronaldo the player he is today:

Cristiano Ronaldo (right) and Carlos Queiroz at Manchester United.
Cristiano Ronaldo (right) and Carlos Queiroz at Manchester United.

One person played a significant role in Cristiano Ronaldo’s development: his trainer at Manchester United, Carlos Queiroz. Along with Sir Alex Ferguson, Queiroz, a fellow Portuguese like Cristiano Ronaldo helped his compatriot become the player he is today.

In his autobiography, Sir Alex Ferguson dedicates an entire chapter on the Portuguese superstar, giving us an inside view on how Cristiano Ronaldo was brought in from Sporting Lisbon, what he was like in his early days and other interesting instances.

In his book, Ferguson mentioned that it was Carlos Queiroz who first brought Ronaldo to Sir Alex’s attention. Ferguson wrote:

"When Carlos joined us in 2002, he told me, ‘There’s a young boy at Sporting and we need to keep an eye on him’… Carlos said we would need to act because this boy was special." (Ferguson, 2014, p. 112) 
Carlos Queiroz played a crucial role in honing Cristiano Ronaldo
Carlos Queiroz played a crucial role in honing Cristiano Ronaldo's talents while at Manchester United.

Sir Alex Ferguson already knew all about Cristiano Ronaldo because Manchester United had a strong scouting network in Portugal. Queiroz’s approval only hastened the arrival of the precocious Portuguese teenager at Old Trafford, as did his performance in a friendly against his soon-to-be future club.

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The evolution of Cristiano Ronaldo from a winger to a centre-forward:

Cristiano Ronaldo arrived at Manchester United from Sporting Lisbon with glowing references from all Old Trafford scouts.
Cristiano Ronaldo arrived at Manchester United from Sporting Lisbon with glowing references from all Old Trafford scouts.

It is a common misconception that Cristiano Ronaldo began his career as a left-winger and only changed his game to be a striker to catch up with Lionel Messi in the goal-scoring charts.

In the early 2000s, Manchester United’s Jim Ryan, a scout who specialises in finding talents in Portugal said to Sir Alex:

"Wow, I’ve seen a player. I think he’s a winger, but he’s been playing centre-forward in the youth team. I wouldn’t be waiting too long. At seventeen, someone will gamble" (Ferguson, 2014, p. 112)

Ryan’s words dispel the myth that Ronaldo was a winger and later became a striker to accrue more goals. Sir Alex decided to ‘gamble’ on the precociously talented boy from Madeira, and. Cristiano Ronaldo's transfer to Manchester United was later finalised in Queiroz's apartment in Lisbon.

All great players, like great artists, tend to display their potential right from their childhood, and it was no different with Cristiano Ronaldo.

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Beethoven started composing his piano sonatas at the age of 11, and marvelled everyone . His piano teacher Christian Gottlob Neefe played a key role in his development, identifying his genius early on. He was so talented that the German Magazin der Musik was compelled to write a piece on the 11-year-old boy.

In the same way, footballers too are artists in a way, and like artists, need their fair share of luck in having their talent identified. A certain Lionel Messi was discovered by Carles Rexach who came across him by chance in the streets of Rosario, and eventually spending countless days in pursuit of the 12-year-old.

In Cristiano Ronaldo’s life, Carlos Queiroz played a similar role; a man who was responsible both for his discovery and the honing of his skills. Queiroz was the bridge that linked Cristiano Ronaldo with Sir Alex Ferguson and that propelled the talented footballer to further success.

Cristiano Ronaldo's £80 million move to Real Madrid in the summer of 2009 was a record transfer fee for a footballer at that time. Although Manchester United earned a sizeable amount from Cristiano Ronaldo’s sale, they have quite never managed to fill the void left by him. Later, the likes of Ashley Young came in but never managed the same impact at Manchester United as Cristiano Ronaldo did.

It is a pity that Cristiano Ronaldo’s relationship with Queiroz has suffered over the years. Cracks in their relationship began surfacing in the summer of 2010, during the FIFA World Cup.

Ronaldo’s Portugal were knocked out in the Round of 16 by eventual champions Spain. It was Queiroz who was the manager of Portugal, having already left the assistant manager’s position at Manchester United in 2008 to join the Portuguese national set-up.

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In the defeat against Spain, Portugal had numerous chances, with Cristiano Ronaldo squandering multiple free-kicks. Portuguese midfielder Tiago was also culpable as he put his header wide of goal.

Spain eventually ran out 1-0 winners courtesy a David Villa goal, and Cristiano Ronaldo was left distraught. When a journalist asked Cristiano Ronaldo why Portugal lost, he simply said “Ask Queiroz”, hinting at the manager’s inefficacy that led to the loss. Later, Queiroz also snapped at Pepe, which ultimately led to his dismissal from the Portugal job.

In spite of their differences, it cannot be denied that Carlos Queiroz played a pivotal role in Cristiano Ronaldo’s development. In his autobiography, Sir Alex Ferguson referred to Queiroz’s role in Cristiano Ronaldo’s development with this caption under a photograph of Queiroz training the Portuguese star:

Ronaldo was a model student. Carlos Queiroz played an important role in his development. (Ferguson, 2014)

In 2006, Ruud van Nistelrooy, after infamously hurting Ronaldo by kicking the young winger in training, said to the young player:

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 "What are you going to do? Complain to your daddy? (Ferguson, 2014, p. 156)

Nistelrooy had referred to Queiroz because both Cristiano Ronaldo and Queiroz both belonged to the same country. But because Cristiano Ronaldo had recently lost his father to liver cirrhosis, the Dutchman's remark played a role in his eventual departure from Manchester United.

Portugal were sent packing from the 2010 FIFA World Cup in the Round of 16 by eventual champions Spain. The defeat initiated cracks in the relationship between Cristiano Ronaldo and then Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz.
Portugal were sent packing from the 2010 FIFA World Cup in the Round of 16 by eventual champions Spain. The defeat initiated cracks in the relationship between Cristiano Ronaldo and then Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s story with Queiroz once again reiterates the fragile nature of human relationships.

In many ways, the Portuguese coach was a godfather like figure for Cristiano Ronaldo, a man who took the player under his wing and helped imbibe the merits of hard work and dedication that we have come to associate Ronaldo with.

Sir Alex Ferguson is usually given the credit for moulding Cristiano Ronaldo into the player that he is today, and for good reason. However, Carlos Queiroz’s role in the development of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner should never be ignored. Had it not been for Queiroz, Cristiano Ronaldo may not have become the player he eventually became.

Published 22 Jun 2020, 03:02 IST
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