Cristiano Ronaldo was marked down as a potential superstar as long ago as 1997, one of his former youth coaches has explained.

Leonel Pontes was in charge of the development sides at Sporting Club de Portugal at that time and helped the young Ronaldo with his transition from Madeira to life in Lisbon.

“I saw him for the first time in March 1997,” he explained to La Gazzetta dello Sport, “in a football tournament in Camara de Lobos, he was introduced to me by his godfather. I was told he was a player with great quality and unique characteristics.”

“He was small, but he was good. It was enough to watch him for a moment to see he had some excellent quality with the ball. To be sure, I asked one of my coaches for some information; nobody had ever seen a young player with such potential.”

Ronaldo would eventually break into the Sporting first team in 2003, playing a single season before his transfer to Manchester United.

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