Cristiano’s first appearance on the award shortlist came in 2004, when he was among a group of 50 names competing for what was then the title of European Footballer of the Year.
Ronaldo caught the eye as a tricky winger during his first season with the Reds, but it was the pivotal role he played in helping Portugal to the Euro 2004 final which was largely to thank for his 12th place, just below Greece’s goalscoring hero Angelos Charisteas. Andriy Shevchenko, then of Milan, claimed the prize.
Cristiano finished joint-20th (with Jamie Carragher) and joint-14th (with Patrick Vieira and Gennaro Gattuso) in the following two years, with Ronaldinho and Paolo Cannavaro top of the voting in 2005 and 2006 respectively.
United’s 2006-07 resurgence was reflected in the poll for 2007, as Ronaldo garnered 277 votes, enough for second place ahead of Messi. Kaka had spearheaded Milan to a second Champions League triumph in three years and deserved his win, which ultimately signified the end of the old era. Little did we know it, but a decade of Ronaldo and Messi dominance had begun…