From Rags to Impossible Riches: Cristiano Ronaldo’s Extraordinary Journey

He is now one of the most successful footballers of the 21st-century and is one of few sporting billionaires.

But Cristiano Ronaldo, 39, grew up in relative poverty and had to clean streets and beg for food to support his family in Sao Pedro, Madeira.

Ronaldo is the youngest of four children born – after multiple failed abortion attempts – to his mother Dolores dos Santos and father Jose Dinis Aveiro in 1985.

His father, who was ‘drunk almost every day’, was a part-time gardener and suffered with mental health issues after his time fighting for the Portuguese Army during the Angolan War of Independence.

Cristiano Ronaldo as a child with his father Jose Dinis Aveiro who suffered from alcoholism (pictured, right)
Ronaldo used to beg for food and shared a bedroom with his three siblings in his family home in Sao Pedro, Madeira (pictured)
A ten-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo on the day of his first communion in Madeira

Ronaldo told broadcaster Piers Morgan his family struggled to put food on the table and he used to beg outside a McDonald’s next to the stadium his father worked at as a kitman.

He said: ‘We were a little hungry. We have a McDonald’s next to the stadium, we knocked on the door and asked if they had any burgers.’

Ronaldo’s father never got to see the heights of his success as he died from liver failure in 2005 just two years into Ronaldo’s career at Old Trafford.

He added: ‘I really don’t know my father 100 per cent. He was a drunk person. I never spoke with him, like a normal conversation. It was hard.’

Despite the hardship, he grew up in a close family with an elder brother, Hugo, 48, and two older sisters, Elma, 49, and Liliana Kátia, 45, who would ‘pamper’ and ‘baby’ him.

Pictured: His father Jose Dinis Aveiro (left), Cristiano Ronaldo (centre) and his brother Hugo (right)
Pictured: Cristiano Ronaldo (left), his mother Dolores dos Santos (centre) and his sisters Liliana Kátia Aveiro (third from right) and Elma Aveiro (right) 

He was given the name ‘cry baby’ while at school because he was said to cry when he didn’t get his way.

It is also rumored he was expelled from school after throwing a chair at his teacher, claiming they had disrespected him.

But it wasn’t soon after when he left academia at the age of 14 and pursued his passion for football.

He joined Sporting CP in 2002 at the age of sixteen and was quickly signed by Manchester United’s Alex Ferguson, where he made his name as one of the best footballers in the world and earnt a fortune.


Sporting CP (2002-2003)

Ronaldo joined Sporting CP’s youth team at the age of 16, and became the first player to play in the under-16, under-17, under-18, B-team and first team in a season.

Manchester United (2003-2009)

Ronaldo was the first Portuguese signing by Manchester United and was the most expensive signing for a teenager in the 2003–2004 season.

He proved his worth as he became one of the best players in Europe. While Ronaldo played in England, he became the first player to break the 20-goal barrier and helped United claim their first League title in four years.

Real Madrid (2009–2018)  

Ronaldo secured a move to Real Madrid before the start of the 2009–2010 season, in a world-record transfer of 94 million Euros, with a 1 billion Euros buyout clause with His contract which was set to expire in 2015.

The attendance of 80,000 fans at his presentation at the Santiago Bernabeu broke the 25-year record of 75,000 attendances at Diego Maradona’s Napoli presentation.

His first season with Madrid still saw him as a Ballon d’Or contender as he emerged second in the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year behind Lionel Messi despite failing to win any trophy.

Juventus (2018 – 2021)

Ronaldo secured a 100 million Euros transfer to Juventus which also included an additional 12 million euros in fee and contributions to Ronaldo’s youth club.

His transfer was the highest for a player above 30 years old. Ronaldo attributed his move to Juventus to the need for a new challenge, but later said he opted for a transfer due to a lack of support from the club president.

He debuted for Juventus in a Serie A goal against Chievo on August 18, 2018. In his first champions league appearance for Juventus, he was sent off due to violent conduct.

Manchester United (2021 – 2022)

Manchester United announced they had reached an agreement with Juventus to re-sign Ronaldo in August 2021 and the transfer was for an initial £12.85 million, with a two-year contract plus an optional year.

But Ronaldo left the club after disagreements with its management, stating there was ‘no evolution’ since the departure of former manager Alex Ferguson in 2013.

Al Nassr (2022- present)

Al Nassr announced on 30 December 2022 it had reached an agreement for Ronaldo to join the club from January 1, 2023 with a contract until 2025.

Ronaldo played for the first time since transferring to Saudi Arabia in January, in an exhibition game featuring a combined team of Riyadh’s Al Nassr players against Paris Saint-Germain. He scored twice in a 5–4 loss.

After an illustrious footballing career, Ronaldo is now comfortably at the top of the sporting rich-list and is set to earn £175million a year in Saudi Arabia at his new club Al Nassr.

He has an estimated net worth of £789million and owns luxury properties with private swimming pools all over the world- including Lisbon, Madeira, Geres, Turin, Madrid, New York and Riyadh.

He owns a villa in Marbella, Spain, with four bedrooms, high-vaulted ceilings and views of the sea plus a private golf course, an in-built cinema and infinity pool.

But despite his success and wealth, Ronaldo’s tough childhood made him appreciate family values – and in a sense – he has taken them along on the journey.

He said his mother has always lived with him across all the different cities and clubs since joining Manchester United in 2003 – because he can’t imagine leaving her.

He is now a father-of-five and has described raising a family as one of the greatest privileges of his life.

Ronaldo recently revealed he took his 12-year-old son Cristiano Jr to his childhood home and he was shocked by the size of his dad’s former bedroom: ‘My son turned to me and said: “Papa. Did you live here?” He could not believe it.’

Cristiano Ronaldo with his three siblings at his £7million property in Madeira, Portugal 
He is pictured here with his partner Georgina Rodríguez, 29 (right) and four of his children. A painting of his father can be seen in the background. 

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