Inside Soccer Star Cristiano Ronaldo’s Unexpected Private World

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Inside Soccer Star Cristiano Ronaldo’s Unexpected Private World

Cristiano Ronaldo still lives and breathes soccer at 39, but the father of five has been busy shaping his legacy for life after sports.

You don’t have to be a football fan to know Cristiano Ronaldo.

Nor do you even have to know that by football we mean soccer, which is what the game is called in the United States, while “American football” is how the rest of the world refers to the humble little sport that regularly attracts at least 100 million viewers for its championship match each year.

And since it’s quite possible that fans are as familiar with the cut of Ronaldo’s abs as they are with his attack style on the pitch, he’s been one of the most-watched players on and off the field, no matter what country you’ve been watching from, for two decades.

Now 39 and playing in his record sixth European Championship, however, the Portuguese athlete is closer to the end of his storied career than the beginning. And it’s life after football that motivated his decision to sign a reported $350 million-per-year contract with Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nassr FC at the end of 2022.

Last year Ronaldo said his “work in Europe is done,” according to Sports Illustrated’s Fan Nation, and he was ready for a new challenge after playing for “all the most important clubs” in the region.

Of the warm reception he received upon arrival in Riyadh, he said, “The welcome is amazing and I’m really proud.”

Before making that monumental move he had spent two seasons with Manchester United, the club where his professional journey kicked into high gear in 2003 as an 18-year-old wearing No. 7 in the footsteps of David Beckham.

Prior to that Ronaldo enjoyed a three-year run with Italy’s Juventus, which broke the country’s record for player acquisition (and the all-time record for a player over 30) when it acquired the star from Spain’s Real Madrid for $128 million in July 2018.

He’s also the all-time leading scorer in international competition, with 128 goals for Portugal since making his debut with the national team in 2003.

“I still have a passion for the game,” Ronaldo said while being honored at the Best FIFA Awards in Zurich in January 2022. “It’s to entertain myself and I have played football since I was 5 or 6 years old. I feel joy when I train and my motivation is still there.”

He continued, “People ask me how many years I’m going to continue playing—I hope to play for four or five more years. Physically if you treat your body well, it will give you something back. I love the game and I want to continue.”

Turning pro at 17, he spent a year with Sporting PC in Lisbon and then six years with Manchester United—until Real Madrid paid a then-record $105 million for him in 2009.

In 2016, he signed a four-year extension with Real Madrid that netted him upward of $50 million a year through the 2020-21 season.

Just as the ink was drying on that contract, he became the third athlete ever, after Michael Jordan and LeBron James, to sign a lifetime deal with Nike—meaning the swoosh will be going wherever he goes for the remainder of his professional career and beyond—said to be worth roughly $1 billion.

Ronaldo ended up the first-ever soccer player to top Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid athletes, and he reigned supreme from June 2015 to June 2017. After a third-place showing in 2021 with $120 million—$70 million on and $50 million off the field—he was back on top in 2023.

Unsurprisingly, Ronaldo’s social media presence—632 million Instagram followers and counting—is one of the most valuable in all of pop culture, let alone sports, and his accounts regularly out-engage his fellow soccer stars, according to Hookit, which tracks digital and social media sponsorship value. In 2019, Forbes reported that he was making as much as $44 million for product placement in his posts.

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“I have what I have because I’ve sacrificed a lot,” he said in the 2015 documentary Ronaldo.

And he does indeed have a lot, much of which he shows off on his enviable Instagram account, which alongside charming family photos is full of workouts, exotic cars, private jet travel, of course lots of soccer action, a healthy helping of shirtless snaps and whichever products he’s endorsing on any given day.

Along for the ride is his longtime partner Georgina Rodríguez (he thanked his “wife” at the FIFA Awards and Netflix’s I Am Georgina gave a glimpse into her world), and his five surviving kids: Cristiano Jr., born June 17, 2010 (his mom’s identity has remained private), twins Mateo and Eva Maria (born June 8, 2017, via surrogate shortly after he started dating Rodríguez) and—with Rodriguez—daughters Alana Martina, born Nov. 12, 2017, and Bella Esmeralda, born April 18, 2022. (Bella’s twin brother Ángel was stillborn.)