·26 September 2022
·26 September 2022
Cristiano Ronaldo is certainly someone who is aware of just how good of a footballer he is and has been.
The Manchester United superstar regularly toots his own horn and deservedly so, but in 2003, he was adamant there was a player superior to him.
Upon arriving at Old Trafford as a skinny teenager, Ronaldo told reporters: “If you think I’m good, just wait until you see Fabio Paim.”
Fabio Paim, who? Well, at the start of the millennium, he was even more highly regarded than Ronaldo.
Like the now five-time Ballon d’Or winner, Paim was part of Sporting Lisbon’s academy and the sky appeared to be his limit in the footballing sphere.
Things didn’t go according to plan, though…
In truth, Paim’s story is a rather sad one. As shared by The Sun back in 2017, the player’s development as a youngster was hugely impressive, so much so that he was courted by the likes of United, Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Sporting even saw fit to hand him a contract worth £18,000-a-week at the age of just 16, which is a serious amount of money.
Paim also had the French Football Federation trying to convince him to represent Les Bleus over Portugal, the nation of his birth.
The enormous deal Sporting handed to Paim did more harm than good, though. In fact, you could say it kickstarted his decline as a footballer.
In an interview with Globoesporte in 2017, the now 34-year-old opened up and said: “I spent a lot of money on cars. I love cars. I spent lavishly on the ones I wanted. All of them.
“Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Maserati and even a Punto. Every car you could imagine.
“When you have a lot of money, you need a support system around you. I would have done it differently, if I could.
“I knew what I was doing. I believed I had more talent than everyone else. Like everyone, I wanted to feel good, wear nice clothing, drive a nice car and behave with no humility.
“But, it’s normal, that’s what people work for, to be satisfied. On the field, I did what I had to, in order to retreat to my place. I spent time with people I wanted to and did what I wanted.
“At the time, no one criticised me when things were going well. But when I stopped playing, they started pointing the finger. I just wanted to be with my cars.”
After struggling to cope with having fistfuls of cash for the first time in his life at Sporting, Paim opted to join Chelsea on loan in a move he hoped would result in a career revival.
Sadly, the transfer had the opposite impact.
“It was there [Chelsea] where I stopped training and doing my work,” Paim continued.
“I started drinking. I had money and I started doing a lot of things I didn’t do before. The doors were open for me to do what I felt like.”
Paim returned to Sporting after just a year at Chelsea, before being released by the Portuguese club without ever having made a league appearance.
He then turned into a journeyman, representing 12 different clubs in seven countries, with little to no success.
During a stint in Luxembourg, Paim was actually sacked by second-tier side Union 05 Kayl-Tetange for what was deemed “unprofessional behaviour”.
Then in 2019, when his footballing career was all but over, Paim was arrested on suspicion of ‘drug trafficking’. He was eventually acquitted.
There’s a slightly happy ending to the story, though.
In 2020, Paim returned to Sporting to take on the job of youth coach.
Well played, Fabio. He can now use the brutal lessons he’s learned to help those coming through Sporting’s academy system.
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