These days, Cristiano Ronaldo is uttered in the same breath as Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona and Pele thanks to his incredible talent with a football.
But the Portuguese superstar, now 35, wasn’t always a super-ripped, mega-rich contender for the title of Greatest of All Time.
In fact, it took a real kick up the backside for Ronaldo to become the elite footballer he is today.
In England, Ronaldo burst on to the scene out of nowhere after running John O’Shea ragged during a pre-season friendly between Manchester United and Sporting Lisbon in 2003.
Rio Ferdinand, playing for United that day, revealed: “We get in at half-time and John O’Shea must’ve needed an oxygen tank next to him.
“He was in bits and he was sitting there panting. We were telling him to get closer to Ronaldo and he couldn’t even answer us.
“To be fair, me, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt were standing there going ‘this kid’s unbelievable, we’ve got to sign him’.”
And sign him they did, with Fergie beyond impressed with the then-18-year-old’s performance against his Premier League champions.
But even then, Ronaldo was a skinny teenager with a reputation for excessive step-overs and little else.
In fact, Ryan Giggs admitted United players used to kick him in training due to his love of unnecessary trickery.
The 13-time Premier League champion revealed: “When [Ronaldo] first came to Man Utd, he was doing too many skills on the pitch and not enough end product.
“He was young when he joined, he was 18 and still learning his trade. It was a tough school to come in to, he was doing too many skills.
“Often, if he was taking too many touches, he would get kicked in training.
“He had to grow up quite quickly and he certainly did that to go on and be one of the best players in the world.”
His talented was absolutely undoubted, but he was raw – and there were question marks over his attitude, difficult as that is to believe now, 17 years on the consummate pro.
Then-teammate Gary Neville even admitted he wanted to “give up” on Ronaldo in his early years at Old Trafford.
But in the summer of 2006, everything changed – and the rest, as they say, is history.
That year, Ronaldo went off with Portugal to take part in the World Cup in Germany – the scene of his infamous wink to help get club teammate Wayne Rooney sent off.
And that’s when something clicked for him – with Neville revealing he returned looking like a “middleweight boxer”.
Speaking on Sky Sports’ The Football Show, Neville said: “In that 2006-07 season, he was breathtaking. He had fire in his belly, hunger.
“It went from wanting to give up on him in those first few years to when it started to happen after the 2006 World Cup.
“When you look at the season it was when all the negative aspects of his game just disappeared.
“When a player starts getting 30 goals and 15 or 20 assists you can put up with anything from them.
“It was match after match after match and in a two-year period I’ve never seen anything like it on a pitch at Old Trafford.
“It’s very rare you can say you’ve had the best player in the world bar none and I think we did that season.
“He came back from the 2006 World Cup and his maturity had changed. His appearance and physical attributes completely changed overnight.
“He was scrawny, wiry and not very strong and then all of a sudden he was a supper middleweight boxer.
“He was incredible from a strength point of view and the ability to leap, change direction, everything fell into place.
“From that moment on you knew he was going to be really special.”
In the 2005-06 season, Ronaldo scored nine times and added six assists in 33 games – nine of which were off the bench.
Now those are solid numbers for an elite Premier League talent.
But after that fateful summer in Germany, Ronaldo returned and put up Hall of Fame numbers.
In the 2006-07 season, he scored 17 times and added a further eight assists in 34 matches.
Ronaldo also created more chances, enjoyed a boost to his dribbling success as he picked his moments more wisely, while seeing a spike in his passing numbers too.
Another year to work on his game with his new found work ethic and Ronaldo reached even higher heights.
In 2007-08, he scored a ridiculous 31 goals, while laying on six assists – as he was involved in a goal every 74 minutes of action.
Once again, his dribbling numbers saw enormous improvement.
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From Neville wanting to give up on him and Giggsy giving him a good kicking, Ronaldo turned it around and went from skinny kid to world-beater in less than two seasons.
And it was all thanks to one summer where it all clicked for him. The summer of 2006.