Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo says that becoming a father has made him experience winning trophies in a new, more fulfilling way.
Ronaldo has won 13 trophies since joining Madrid for a then-world record €92 million fee in 2009, while also claiming a number of personal prizes, including four Ballon d’Or awards.
The last two seasons have been the most fruitful of his career, with Madrid winning back-to-back Champions League crowns and the 2016-17 La Liga title, while he also captained Portugal to victory at Euro 2016.
Writing for the Players’ Tribune, the 32-year-old described how his emotions have changed over time at the Santiago Bernabeu — a place where not winning everything is seen by others as a failure.
“Over the past eight years, I have achieved incredible things at Madrid,” Ronaldo wrote. “But to be honest, winning trophies later on in my career has become a different kind of emotion. Especially in these last two years.
“At Madrid, if you don’t win everything, other people consider it a failure. This is the expectation of greatness. This is my job. But when you are a father, it is a completely different feeling. A feeling that I cannot describe. This is why my time in Madrid has been special. I have been a footballer, yes, but also a father.”
Ronaldo explained the feeling he gets in sharing his victories with Cristiano Jr, now 7, and connects it back to when he was a boy himself, playing football on Madeira and impressing his family.
“When I was on the pitch after the final whistle [of the 2017 Champions League final], it felt like I had sent a message to the world,” he said.
“But then my son came on the field to celebrate with me … and it was like the snap of a finger. Suddenly, the entire emotion changed. He was running around with Marcelo’s son. We held the trophy together. Then we walked around the field, hand in hand. It is a joy that I did not understand until I was a father.
“There are so many emotions happening simultaneously that you cannot describe the feeling in words. The only thing I can compare it to is how I felt when I was warming up in Madeira and I saw my mother and sister huddled together in the stands.”
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan