Picture by 2009 Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo: Seven things to know about Portugal and Manchester United's eternal No.7

From almost being forced to quit because of a heart condition to having an airport named after him, Cristiano Ronaldo has brought football to new heights. Here are seven things you might not know about him.
By Ken Browne

Cristiano Ronaldo's football resume is unmatched.

Seven league titles in three different countries, five Champions Leagues, five Ballon D'Or awards, one European Championships crown with Portugal, almost 800 goals in just over a thousand appearances and counting - the numbers speak for themselves.

For many, the seemingly timeless forward is the greatest to have ever played the game of football, and boasts fans in their hundreds of millions across the world.

Now he's back at the club which helped launch his career as a 17-year-old, Manchester United get to indulge in their Ronaldo romance for a second box-office season 12 years later.

The Portuguese megastar melted 'Red Devil' hearts worldwide with the message he posted on Instagram that announced his return; it started with "Everyone who knows me knows about my never ending love for Manchester United," and ended with "PS - Sir Alex, this one is for you..."

Ronaldo was brought to the club in 2003 by near-mythical club legend Sir Alex Ferguson who managed the most successful era in Manchester United history.

Won over by the tidal wave of emotion and nostalgia caused by Ronaldo's return, even Edison Cavani got in on the act, stepping aside so that Ronaldo could have his iconic No.7 shirt back, the Uruguayan switching to 21.

The number seven shirt has been adorned by United heroes like George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham, and now Cristiano Ronaldo for a second time.

The wheel has come full circle and Portugal's prodigal son is back, read on for seven things about the eternal number seven that you might not know, including why a heart condition meant his career was almost over before it even began.

1: An early heart condition

It is hard to imagine a footballing world without Cristiano Ronaldo, but when he was just 15-years-old, premature retirement was a very real possibility.

Ronaldo was diagnosed with Tachycardia, which meant his heart would beat irregularly and, even when resting, would be racing.

In order to save his career, he had to undergo heart surgery.

"They used a sort of laser to cauterise the source of the problem. He was operated on in the morning and came out at the end of the afternoon," his mother Maria Dolores Aveiro said.

While she was fearful over her son getting back on a football field, Ronaldo had no such hesitations and couldn't wait to get back to kicking a ball.

Incredibly, just a few days after surgery, he was back training once again, and the rest is history.

2: The Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport

Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal, is where CR7 was born and raised before moving to Lisbon to embark on his professional football career.

Ronaldo never forgets where he comes from, and has a handy reminder every time he flies home to airport with his name on it.

In 2016 it was announced that they would be renaming the airport to Madeira International Airport Cristiano Ronaldo.

He joined the list of historical and cultural figures throughout time who have had an airport named after them including JFK, John Lennon, Louis Armstrong, and Genghis Khan.

A year later, the unveiling happened.

As well as the name-change, the airport also commissioned a bust which went viral... for all the wrong reasons.

Cristiano Ronaldo 
Picture by 2017 Getty Images

After attracting unprecedented attention, the bust was eventually replaced with one that resembled Ronaldo a little more.

Despite a few bumps, the gesture is indicative of just how much Ronaldo means to Madeira and the pride they feel for the island's most famous son.

3: Cristiano Ronaldo LOVES Ricky Martin

Yep.

And hit song Livin' La Vida Loca high up on his favourite playlist.

Ronaldo's also a big fan of George Michael, Phil Collins, Elton John, and others.

And in his early days at Madrid, he even had a playful jab at Manchester band Oasis' Gallagher brothers (Who happen to be huge Manchester City fans), claiming they were 'no Ricky Martin'.

His son Cristiano Jr. is clearly into Ricky Martin's stuff too, here's a clip of them singing La Mordidita together.

4: Impressive social media numbers

Ronaldo's social media game is as fierce as his on-pitch attitude. He is the most followed person on Instagram in the world with 337 million followers and holds the same title on Facebook with 150 million follows.

Add the 94 million he has on Twitter and you get the idea of the reach he has, Ronaldo has transcended sport to become a global pop-culture phenomenon.

5: 'What do you study?' 'Cristiano Ronaldo'

As crazy as it sounds, back in 2015 University of British Columbia Okanagan introduced a sociology class on Ronaldo to be included in their fourth year modules.

Luis LM Aguiar, associate professor of sociology at the time, wanted to delve into "how Ronaldo has been used to construct several discourses about who he is, what makes him distinct as a footballer, what is his relationship to Portugal, Madeira (his hometown) and indeed Portuguese identity."

Aguiar believed that Ronaldo would make a fascinating study for his class, given his 'social and cultural' appeal to people beyond football.

"Sociology is nothing if not the delving into the processes of structuring identities and experiences and exposing the social forces that push these processes."

Luis LM Aguiar teaches a sociology class on Cristiano Ronaldo
Picture by UBC Press Release

6: CR7 was almost CR28

When Ronaldo made his £12 million-pound switch from Sporting to Manchester United, he asked for the no. 28 shirt, as opposed to the historic seven.

Sir Alex Ferguson told Ronaldo that he would be taking over the shirt number from Beckham, despite being newly transferred to the club and aged just 18.

"I was petrified as I knew Beckham wore that shirt. But I took on the challenge and since then it has been my lucky number," he said.

"I have won everything in football with that shirt."

CR7 is now a worldwide brand, a number he built an empire on.

7: Helping others in need

A global icon, Ronaldo uses his reach for good too, and is particularly involved in children's charities and global organisations.

Ronaldo currently serves as an ambassador for Save the Children, UNICEF and World Vision.

During the coronavirus he stepped in to help stretched hospitals back home by donating $1.08 million to three hospitals in Portugal, working to fight COVID-19 in the country.

Ronaldo has helped fans with life changing operations and made a generous donation the hospital that helped his mother recover from cancer.

It's rare in today's footballing world but did you ever notice that he doesn't have any tattoos?

That's because he wants to be free to give blood whenever he can.

Once he decided to donate blood after finding out that the son of Portuguese teammate Carlos Martins was diagnosed with a very rare blood disease.

He also became a bone marrow donator in the wake of the news, saying: "I did it many years ago and if I had to do it again I would because this is a very serious disease for many children and we need to help them."