Remember the name? it used to flash up on Soccer Saturday back in the day, usually for some random lower division Scottish team like Fort William. For the benefit of this story, we’ll use the same moniker.
Now, there’s being shown around the place, and then there’s the guided tour of Carrington from Eric Harrison. Arguably Fergie’s most valuable henchman, Harrison carried a respect back in the day that only the true football purists will understand. That’s the thing with those lucky enough to be invited to trial at Manchester United under the Ferguson years - you weren’t really a trialist, you were already deemed good enough. A meticulous scouting structure created by the Boss, directly aligned with the ideology of progressing young talent, meant that it didn’t get any better than a professional contract at United for any 16 year-old.
A TRIALIST was on the cusp of that.
This was a family affair, with his dad being heavily involved in the scouting system at Rangers, so they’d all made the trip down from Scotland for the induction. The team sheet was healthy - mother, father, older sister and two younger, boisterous brothers, all still gleaming from Sir Alex Ferguson phoning the house a few weeks prior. It didn’t take long before the lads were chin-wagging with Roy Keane in the cafeteria, Keano baiting them about what vegetables to eat to make themselves taller.
They showed him around the classrooms. He shook hands with Paul Scholes. There was even time for a quick nutmeg on a young Gerard Pique during a game of two-touch with the under-19s. Sir Alex himself was welcoming enough to have him in his office. All of the tour resonated at the same frequency within him, an awe-inspiring energy that he wanted more of, and just made him think, ‘this is it’. But it wasn’t until he went into the gym that he was truly shocked.
Shockwaves or Brylcreem - the choice of hair product was irrelevant. Whichever way you looked at him, it was impossible not to perceive the ego at work, as the player held his perpetual hamstring stretch. A TRIALIST knew it was something much deeper. Dedication. Sat there on an exercise ball, Cristiano’s verve was there for all to see. The noodle hair and long neck caught attention, but it was the front cover star of the magazine he was holding that stood out.
The magazine gloss was almost a manifestation of the man’s complexion now. Watching him sit there, reading a magazine about himself, A TRIALIST felt at one with Ronaldo’s creed. This was a new level of drive he had not witnessed, but a will to be the best he understood. It was advertised. He was single-handedly elevating that aura Manchester United were associated with. Who knew, then, that he would propel them, and himself, to another dimension. The supposedly arrogant act of reading the mag was just proof he could handle it.
Put simple, football is a game of comrades, and yet it was already obvious Ronaldo was a lone wolf. His commitment second to none, the unyielding sacrifice no accident, A TRIALIST knew from that moment Cristiano Ronaldo would go on to be the best player in the world, and he’d never felt inspiration like it.
A TRIALIST was an inspiration in his own right at one point. With that Messi-like low sense of gravity, two wands for feet and a Riquelme technique, he was once touted as the best in Britain for his age. He never made it. Therein, along with so many other broken dreams, lies the proof of just how special Cristiano Ronaldo is.
And the man is still going. Whatever happens in the coming days, we would be wise to ignore the commotion and just bask in the height of his commitment. The reason he is so revered is because determination like his is so rare, and for the millions who have fallen, he stands alone, god-like, a reminder to each and every trialist just exactly what it takes to get to the top.