Sporting Lisbon have paid tribute to unarguably their greatest ever product by renaming their academy to Academia Cristiano Ronaldo.
In the year 2001, a 16-year old boy caught the eyes of the then Sporting Lisbon manager Laszlo Boloni who decided to promote him to the first-team squad.
Boloni had been impressed by the young boy’s seemingly effortless ability to take on players.
The boy made a record, something which he went on to develop a keen taste for over the years, by becoming the first-ever player to play for the club’s U-16, U-17, U-18 teams, the B team, as well as the first team, all within a single season.
He then continued to repay his manager’s faith as he scored twice in Sporting’s 3-0 win on his Primeira Liga debut in 2002.
It did not take much longer for the very-talented winger to start making noises as clubs across Europe started giving him admiring glances.
Liverpool, Arsenal, FC Barcelona, and Manchester United were some of the heavyweights that showed interest in signing him, but it was the latter who eventually succeeded.
Another record was made by the forward as he became the then most expensive teenager in English football history after completing a €19 million transfer to Manchester United.
Fast forward 17 years, and the Portuguese has not only enjoyed a glistering career so far, with many regarding him as the best ever to play the game, but also established himself as a global icon.
It was at Sporting that Cristiano Ronaldo’s extraordinary journey started and the club have now decided to pay tribute to their best and most popular academy graduate.
Sporting announced on Monday that they have decided to rename their Alcochete Academy, where the main team train, to ‘Academia Cristiano Ronaldo’.
A statement on the club’s official website read: “The good son makes the home and the home that made Cristiano Ronaldo now welcomes his name in honor of the one who became the best Portuguese player of all time, the best player in the world, awarded with five Golden Balls and captain of the national champion Europe and the League of Nations.
“The Academy will thus immortalize the name of the greatest symbol ever formed and that will be an inspiration to follow for all the youngest talents.”