He’s been around for so long that it’s difficult to remember when Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t a household name.
But the Portuguese superstar was once an unknown quantity and this weekend, he has been reflecting on the game which provided him with his big break 16 years ago.
Ronaldo began his career as a youngster at Sporting Lisbon and it was a match against future club Manchester United which changed everything.
“It was the first game in the new Sporting stadium. I remember it perfectly as if it were today,” the 34-year-old told DAZN as part of a new documentary about his career.
“I was happy. I was going to play against one of the best teams in the world and the game was spectacular.
“I mentioned to my friends at the Sporting academy that I would play against Manchester and that I was a bit nervous. Nervousness is a part of being a football player in big games.
“I was motivated, I was happy and I knew that if I played well it would generate even more interest, not only from Manchester [United] but from other clubs as well because I was being watched.
“I felt that many teams came to watch me and of course watch Sporting too. The game went really well for me.
“I try to take all the big challenges as a big test. Not anymore, but when I was younger, it was always a big challenge. Obviously, with maturity, you’re able to control your emotions but I knew it was an important step in my career.
“There were a lot of clubs interested in me at the time. I always had my feet on the ground and I knew that my future would be in football, that I would be a professional footballer and my life would be around football.
“I was taking it step by step. This time it was about playing, enjoying the game, playing against Manchester [United], a great team, doing my best, trying to play an excellent game and obviously, things went well,” the football veteran said.
Not long after this match, Sir Alex Ferguson signed Ronaldo for United in a £17m deal which would prove to be one of the biggest bargains in football history.
“It was just after the game,” says Ronaldo.
“I remember that the game was over. There was a Sporting director who called me over and said that Ferguson wanted to talk to me.”
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner eventually left Old Trafford in a world-record transfer to Real Madrid in 2009, before eventually moving to Juventus last summer.