Cristiano Ronaldo - Portuguese, 27, Soccer (3)
It has become difficult to talk about Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo without mention of a little genius from Argentina. For much of the past year, Ronaldo has been cast as Moriarty to Lionel Messi’s Holmes – or worse, Salieri to his Mozart. Not that there was ever any risk to the Portuguese’s inviolable self-confidence. The 27-year-old may have surrendered the zeitgeist to Messi but he has reclaimed La Liga and perhaps the Ballon D’Or.
His recent achievements – crowned with that vital goal at the Camp Nou in April – serve as a reminder that theirs is a rivalry, not a hierarchy. Where Messi scampers, Ronaldo struts; where Barcelona’s idol produces moments of other-worldly inspiration, his Madridista counterpart overwhelms defences with terrifying power and pace. The brands tell the same story: Ronaldo wears Nike boots, plays Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer and drinks Coca-Cola.
He is a divisive figure but the former Manchester United man retains a devoted following at two of the world’s three biggest clubs – his reputation at the third is best not discussed – and boasts a bewildering nine million Twitter followers and 43 million fans on Facebook.
Ronaldo will soon enter the final third of his career. A two-year, US$9 million renewal with Castrol last November suggests that current sponsors will be well looked after by Jorge Mendes’ Gestifute agency but interesting decisions lie ahead. A bumper contract with Nike expires in 2014 and though Portugal are outsiders at Euro 2012 this summer the build-up will be another showcase for Ronaldo’s commercial magnetism.