Sweeping the streets in his hometown of Funchal, Cristiano Ronaldo thought he’d spend his adult life working as a fisherman.
Decades later, the 36-year-old has become one of the greatest footballers of all time, with a blockbuster summer transfer now on the cards.
The star is poised to move to the Etihad and seal a Premier League return after his agent successfully negotiated his Turin exit.
Yet despite his amazing natural talent, Ronaldo has battled against the odds to make it – having been expelled from school, diagnosed with a freak heart condition and grown up in a poor neighbourhood with an alcoholic father.
‘He was a child I didn’t want to have’
Even before he was born, Ronaldo faced an uphill struggle – with his mum Maria Dolores dos Santos admitting she initially didn’t want another child.
Already mum to three children with the star’s father, Jose Dinis Aveiro, Dolores revealed the family was struggling to pay the bills and she had considered having an abortion.
SIPA USA/PA Images)
“He is a child that I wanted to abort,” Maria told the documentary Ronaldo.
“God didn’t want that to happen and I was blessed because of that and God didn’t punish me.
“Sometimes Ronaldo makes fun of me and says ‘You didn’t want me to be born. But now you see that I’m here helping all of you.’ And, well, sometimes we have a laugh about that.”
While Ronaldo has remained incredibly close to his mum over the decades, he had a more troubled relationship with his father.
An alcoholic war veteran, Jose died of liver failure in 2005, when his son was 20, and it remains one of the footballer’s biggest regrets that his dad never saw him fulfil his potential.
“I really don’t know my father 100 per cent,” Ronaldo told Piers Morgan’s Life Stories.
“He was a drunk person. I never spoke with him, like a normal conversation. It was hard.
“To be the number one and he doesn’t see anything, and he doesn’t see me receive awards, to see what I became.”
Star thought he would be fisherman at 35
While he now had a portfolio of stunning properties across the globe, Ronaldo’s childhood home was rather different.
In an emotive Instagram post, his sister Katia Aveiro shared a picture of the “old house” they grew up in in Sao Pedro, revealing it was so run down she was bitten in the face by a rat as a baby.
“Thank God my mother arrived in time, otherwise I would have been more ugly than I am today” she joked.
The four children – including Ronaldo’s older brother, Hugo, and sister Elma – shared a single bedroom in the house and were raised in a Catholic household.
Despite his love of football shining through from a young age, the star had no big dreams about his future, and assumed he’d end up working as a fisherman in the village.
“When I was little I thought that at 35 I would be fishing in Madeira,” he told Portugual’s Canal 11 last year.
“But it was not cane, which costs a lot, it was thread on the finger.
“It never crossed my mind to play where I played and win what I won.”
Expelled for throwing chair at ‘disrespectful’ teacher
By the age of seven, Ronaldo had embarked on his football journey, playing for his local side CF Andorinha.
While his dad worked as a kit man at the club, it didn’t stop him earning an embarrassing nickname.
According to Ricardo Santos, a childhood team mate for the side, Ronaldo was known as ‘cry baby’ because he threw tantrums when he wasn’t passed the ball.
“Cry baby, yes, because Ronaldo already loved to win like he loves today,” Santos told Reuters.
“When he lost and when other kids didn’t pass the ball to him he used to cry.”
The tantrums weren’t reserved to the football pitch either.
Already a football fanatic, Ronaldo had little time for school work and ended up being expelled after an incident with a teacher.
“I was not thick but I was not interested in school,” he later admitted.
“I was expelled after I threw a chair at the teacher. He disrespected me.”
Heart condition nearly thwarted career
As he threw himself into football practice, Ronaldo’s talent was clear for all to see.
Fernao Barros Sousa – a player at Andorinha – explained how he watched the starlet grow, eventually moving to the island’s biggest club, Nacional.
Manchester United via Getty Images)
“He had something that was different from the others and that was that he played a lot of football,” Sousa told Goal.
“Even from a young age. When the other kids were studying, he put his studies on the back seat in order to play football.
“You could see it when his father was kitman with Andorinha. He had the bags with the footballs and Cristiano would be with his father, with a ball in hand and playing with the ball.
“He tried to dribble and obviously he copied the older players. He did that a lot.”
Aged 12, Ronaldo was given a three-day trial with Sporting Lisbon, who signed him for just £1,500.
Yet three years into his stay with them, his burgeoning career was rocked after his family were told he had an irregular heartbeat.
While the condition is usually harmless, it can ocassionally lead to dangerous complications, and after a series of medical examinations Ronaldo had to undergo surgery.
“His heart raced a lot when he wasn’t running,” his mum, Delores, later said.
“They used a sort of laser to cauterise the source of the problem. He was operated on in the morning and came out at the end of the afternoon.
“Before we knew exactly what he had, I was worried because there was the possibility of him giving up playing football.
“But the treatment went well and after some days he was back at training again.
“Cristiano wasn’t very worried – he didn’t take the situation very seriously – but I got a big fright.
“It seems the treatment allowed him to run even faster!”
Raced cars in street and begged for burgers
While he now earns an eye-watering £500,000 a week at Juventus, Ronaldo was once so poor that kind-hearted McDonald’s workers used to give him free burgers.
Speaking to Piers Morgan, he recalled how he and other youngsters at Sporting Lisbon would knock on the door of a restaurant next to the stadium and be given food by a woman called Edna and “two other girls” he never found again.
Coming forward after the interview was aired, Edna told the Portuguese sports daily Record: “I’m happy and it just shows how humble he is.
“I’m no one really for him to remember me like that.”
She added: “This was something that all happened such a long time ago. I’m really happy at what he’s gone on to become. I never thought he would remember me so many years on.
“It shows how wonderful he is that he hasn’t forgotten small things like this from his past.”
Incredible pictures have also shown the starlet sweeping roads in his hometown for extra cash, while his Sporting roommate Miguel Paixao – who remains his best friend – once told how he used to race cars to keep fit.
“In the street by the hostel, cars had to stop at the traffic lights and he ran to see who was the fastest – himself or the car,” Paixao told Marca.
Ahead of the Euros earlier this year, Portugal boss Fernando Santos expanded on the story, revealing Ronaldo would even weigh his legs down with weights to bulk up.
Santos said: “Cristiano is represented by ambition, desire, determination, humility, work and the realisation of dreams.
“He defines it very well. He shows throughout his life that the dream can come true.
“That a boy like him in Funchal, he can be a great footballer.
“Of course, sitting around waiting for the dream to come true will not work.
“I think that represents Cristiano Ronaldo well.”
At the age of 18, the young winger was picked up by a certain Alex Ferguson, who brought him for Manchester United for £12.million.
Since then, the poor kid from Funchal hasn’t done too badly for himself.