When Cristiano Ronaldo drives off the pitch after being carried off the pitch with an ankle injury during Thursday night’s Real Madrid v Atlético Madrid Spanish Super Cup, not many will remember he’s also the world’s most valuable footballer.
Granted, the Real Madrid and Portugal forward is regarded as the world’s best player by many. He is part of an elite group of six, known as the “Golden Ball”, as the best player in each of the four major footballing divisions.
But his global influence goes far beyond any comparison to human-race status. After just 16 months in Europe, he’s become the first ever footballer to hold two founding positions in two superpowers and the worlds most successful sports broadcaster.
The Portuguese football legend has become the founder of La Decima, the club’s official motto that means “the tenth” and tells fans what lies ahead. Ronaldo has already inspired a social media app that sells football collectibles; La Decima, of course, is just an initial leap. The club also created two official calendars of images from Ronaldo’s 10 years at the club.
Real’s official website now features a vast range of videos of Ronaldo being both Zen and mischievous. A lot of them feature just his simple skills that catapulted him to stardom in the early 2000s. From such humble beginnings, the club’s star forward has gone on to become the world’s highest paid footballer.
In March last year, when Ronaldo signed a new deal with Real Madrid worth €1bn over five years, according to Forbes magazine, he was named “entertainer of the year” at the MTV Video Music Awards and became the highest paid sportsperson ever. Despite being bought in 2009 for €95m, Real Madrid’s record signing has already made close to €600m.
To what extent his off-field pursuits, such as his underwear range and partnership with the sportswear giant Adidas have been influenced by the financial imperative of a great athlete making big bucks on a global scale is difficult to know.
When Ronaldo did score his 11th, 10th, and 9th Champions League goals of the season against Barcelona in 2015 it wasn’t merely in pursuit of an astronomical individual haul, but in support of the success of a side that had claimed what seemed at the time, a third Champions League in a row.
He did so amid the fact that the Madrid club were battling a financial crisis.
The climate changes may have have one foot out the door, but as a result of his extraordinary success he is more the rock star of football now than ever before. After all, there aren’t many players who have effectively changed the planet around their feet, and still played for a club that remains one of the world’s top five.