Cristiano Ronaldo is undoubtedly one of the best footballers the world has ever seen.
A supernaturally prolific goal scorer, Ronaldo is a joy to watch when out on the pitch. Not just for his rare skill, but for his unique way of playing which distinguishes him from his many talented contemporaries.
One of his signature moves is the theatrical way he holds himself before taking a free kick. Rather than rush to the ball, Ronaldo builds the tension by standing three feet from the ball, with his feet spread far apart.
Before he runs to shoot – and usually score – the Portuguese player can always been seen breathing deeply with an intent, focused expression on his face.
And now we finally know why he stands in this very particular – and instantly recognisable – way, and it’s pretty interesting.
Speaking with the Daily Mail, former Manchester United assistant manager Mike Phelan revealed some of the secrets to Ronaldo’s focus on improving his technique.
One of the points Phelan focused on was that show-stopping stance which he says is all about precision:
People used to put the ball down, walk away, run up and hit it. He brought in a more dynamic showmanship.
He places the ball down, the concentration level is high, he takes his certain amount of steps back so that his standing foot is in the perfect place to hit the ball in the sweet spot.
He is the ultimate showman. He has that slight arrogance. When he pulls those shorts up and shows his thighs, he is saying ‘All eyes on me’ and this is going in.
He understands the marketing side of it. The way he struts up and places it; the world is watching him.
Phelan also gave an insight into Ronaldo’s ambitious character, which has clearly driven him from an early age:
When Cristiano Ronaldo first arrived at Manchester United in 2003, Ryan Giggs was on free-kicks. But Cristiano took on challenges like nobody else. He always wanted to try something.
He wanted to be the guy who found out through trying. He did it every day after training with Giggs and Wayne Rooney. The first challenge was to be better than his team-mates. He rose to that. Once he mastered it, he liked people to be around him watching it and talking about it.
He also insisted on doing it against the best goalkeepers. He wouldn’t have a youth team goalkeeper in nets. He wanted to score against Edwin van der Sar. He spoke to the goalkeepers and asked about their psyche: finding out what they thought and what they found difficult.
Arrogance or not, Ronaldo has every reason to take pride in his abilities. With five UEFA Champions League wins under his belt, the 33-year-old has also won the European Championship and is a five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Sigh. If only he’d been born in Margate rather than Madeira, the World Cup could be firmly within our grasp…
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.