Cristiano Ronaldo has joined LiveScore as Official Global Brand Ambassador. Over the next five days we will chart the seasons in which he won the prestigious Ballon d’Or award.
Denis Law, Bobby Charlton, George Best — Cristiano Ronaldo was in good company when he won his first Ballon d’Or in 2008.
No Manchester United player had lifted the world’s most prestigious individual award for 40 years but a stellar campaign for the Red Devils had propelled Ronaldo to the summit of football’s superstar elite.
Here is how the 2007-08 season set the Portuguese icon on the road to become one of the game’s greatest ever players.
On the horizon
Recognition for Ronaldo’s performances had been on the horizon for some time.
Then 23, the United winger had been on the Ballon d’Or shortlist in 2004, 2005 and 2006, before finishing runner-up to AC Milan’s Kaka in 2007.
By the 2006-07 campaign he had begun his transformation into the goal machine of today, scoring 23 goals in all competitions and helping Sir Alex Ferguson’s side to the Premier League title.
But Ronaldo was about to take his game to a whole new level the following season.
A vintage team
Ronaldo’s individual quality undoubtedly pushed Manchester United to achieve greatness in 2007-08 — but an outstanding supporting cast helped the Red Devils win a stunning Premier League and Champions League double.
Carlos Tevez’s 14 top-flight strikes played a part in United hitting the 80-goal mark that season, while a brilliant backline of Edwin van der Sar, Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra conceded a miserly 22 goals across the league campaign.
The supply line of Wayne Rooney and Nani also contributed a combined 19 top-flight assists between them — yet it was Ronaldo’s staggering 31 league goals and 42 in all competitions that really drew the plaudits.
Hitting 42 goals in just 49 games is remarkable under any circumstances but the importance of Ronaldo’s goals in 2007-08 were just as significant.
The forward scored the only goal or goals of the game for Manchester United on 11 different occasions that season and made key contributions in some of the biggest matches.
United’s talisman swept home a crucial penalty against Wigan on the final day of the league season to ensure the title headed to Old Trafford, before powering a header past Petr Cech in the Champions League final against Chelsea.
With a knack for the spectacular, this was a season littered with great Ronaldo goals.
The Portuguese star’s first hat-trick for the club against Newcastle, sealed with a deceptive turn and low finish, was a particular highlight — but there is little doubt his iconic free-kick vs Portsmouth was the pick of the bunch.
The image of Ronaldo, head back, bellowing in celebration after his stunning set-piece left Pompey keeper David James rooted to the spot is arguably the most memorable moment of his time in English football.
A clean sweep
From the Premier League Golden Boot and the European Golden Shoe, to the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year awards, Ronaldo amassed every accolade going after a simply sensational season.
But there was no greater recognition than the Ballon d’Or, as the winger revealed when he accepted the award for the first time.
He said: “I dreamt of this when I was younger. It’s a great day for me and my family.
“The Ballon d’Or has been won by two great Portuguese players and for me to be part of that history is a great feeling.
“It’s incredible considering I only started my career a few years ago. I must thank all the people who voted for me and especially my team-mates who passed the ball to me to allow me to be the best.”
With four more Ballon d’Or wins still to come in his career, Ronaldo was about to get used to the feeling of being the greatest player on the planet.
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