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Cristiano Ronaldo–Watch and Learn

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The Manchester United and Portugal star has long been known for his footwork. How did the trickster become the world’s greatest player?

Sir Alex Ferguson shipped off Man U icon David Beckham to Real Madrid in 2002. With the cash from the transfer, Ferguson could snatch virtually any player in the world. His choice, an eighteen wunderkid playing at Sporting CP.

Where Beckham had excelled from set pieces and pinpoint long passes, Ronaldo was a master on the ball. He was branded a pretty-boy, concerned only with his quick feet and tricks, not tough enough to play at Old Trafford. After a big first game against Bolton, the rest of his first season was a highlight reel of tricks with nothing much to show for it.

Through hard work and increasing the effectiveness of teaming with his fellow players, it soon enough all clicked for him. His impeccable footwork combined with terrific vision and clinical finishing. His tally from last season’s campaign: 41 goals, and the odd-son favorite Ballon d’Or (given to the top player in Europe) and FIFA’s World Player of the Year.

From his early days in Portugal at six years old, he continually works on dribble moves. He signed with Sporting at eleven years of age, moving away from his parents to train at one of the top talent youth factories in all the world. Here are some of his skills today.

It hasn’t all been easy for Cristiano. An incident at the 2006 World Cup caused English fans to turn on him. Wayne Rooney was given a red card for stepping on Portuguese defender Ricardo Carvalho, and many Brits felt Ronaldo had influenced the sending off. Early in the 2006-2007 season, he was roundly booed by frustrated English fans. His manager told him to use his skills to keep the boo-birds quiet. “He’s never afraid to show his ability, because he has great courage,” said Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United’s manager.

The lesson of Christiano Ronaldo? Feverish practice at the U10 and U12 ages, mastering the ball combined with terrific finishing. Here’s a great documentary from ITV Sports.