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Icons Legend of the Week: Wayne Rooney

by Al 3. October 2012 10:38

“Remember the name, Wayne Rooney!” exclaimed commentator Clive Tyldesley as one of the most exciting talents in English footballing history burst onto the scene ten years ago aged just 16, putting an unbeatable curling shot past Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman. He needn’t have bothered. In the decade since Rooney has never left the limelight. Remember him? Since 2002 you’ve been hardly able to avoid him.

The 26-year-old has scored a mesmerising 199 career goals to date and won almost every bit of silverware at club level there is to collect. Having moved to Manchester United from Everton in 2004 he has powered Sir Alex Ferguson’s men to four Premier League titles, two League Cups and a famous Champions League triumph in 2008 picking up along the way a wealth of personal accolades:  PFA Players’ Player of the Year once, PFA Fans’ Player of the Year twice, EPL Goal of the Season three times and BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year to name but a few.

But there’s more to Rooney than his trophy cabinet. A bullish forward known for his charges at defenders and thunderous finishing, there’s a directness to the England international that makes him a thrill to watch, perhaps even more so than his counterparts in Spain and beyond. Leo Messi is beautiful to watch. Rooney is exhilarating, the explosive Michael Bay action movie to the Barcelona star's elegant art flick.

There have been English forwards arguably more talented but few more fascinating. Michael Owen may have been won the prestigious FIFA Balloon D’or player of the year award in 2001 but his career soon faded. Rooney meanwhile has maintained the incendiary form of his early years for a decade now with only occasional blips.

Though his career has been chequered by personal life scandals and intrusions of the press that have sometimes led to dips in form he always comes back stronger. When in 2010 it was alleged he had solicited prostitutes while his wife Colleen was pregnant his form dropped and he fell out with United boss Ferguson that led to him handing in a transfer request.

His time at the top is over, predicted critics. But months later he was back to his electrifying best and putting away an astonishing overhead kick that was to set his place in Premier League folklore in stone. A deflected David Silva effort had put Manchester City within sight of a crucial point in the battle for the 2010-11 title when a 77th minute cross from Nani found Rooney for him to power into the net with jaw-dropping technique. The goal was later voted the best Premier League finish since its inception some 20 years ago. “If I could have bottled the buzz, it would make the best fizzy drink ever,” remarked the striker in his recent autobiography.

Rooney has also proved his maturity as he has grown older. Though he was famously sent off in an international match against Montenegro putting a dent in England’s Euro 2012 hopes before the tournament had even began, the 26-year-old has otherwise curbed his volatile temperament. The striker went the entirety of the 2011-12 season without a booking for United and his disciplinary record so far this campaign is equally clean.

Some argue that the downside of conquering his temperament is he has lost a certain fieriness in pursuit of the ball. But there’s no debating that Rooney has evolved into a more commanding player as his United career has progressed. His pass completion rate now consistently sits above the 80% mark and he is equally happy providing – as he is scoring as his elated reaction to his two assists for new strike partner Robin van Persie in last night’s Champions League tie proved.

All that is left for Rooney to achieve is international glory. The forward has been notoriously unlucky on the world stage, with injuries and suspensions ritualistically popping up prior to tournaments. But with Roy Hodgson earlier this year marking the Man United man out as a future England captain and an exciting new breed of players coming through the ranks including Tom Cleverley and Jack Wilshere, a long-awaited tournament triumph may not be too far off.

That might seem a stretch of the imagination after a succession of humbling tournaments, but if there's one thing you should know about the illustrious Wayne Rooney, it's never write him off.

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Icons Legend of the Week: Paul Scholes

by Al 21. September 2012 09:00

18 years ago today, Paul Scholes made his first team debut, scoring both goals as Manchester United overcame Port Vale in the Football League Cup. A lot has changed in football since but somehow the midfield maestro’s impact on the pitch remains the same – his passing range still unbeatable, the way he dictates games even more masterful and his probing play on the edge of the area still a constant source of goals for the Manchester club.

Though a Salford lad through and through – he was born not far from Old Trafford and on the rare occasions he talks to the TV cameras, does so with a strong Mancunian accent and sharp Northern sense of humour - there’s something distinctly un-English about Scholes.

In a footballing culture that idolises industrious runners and bullish charges forward, the 37-year-old is known for his patient passing play - since returning for Manchester United in January 2012 after a stab at retirement (“he was missing it too much,” says Sir Alex Ferguson) Scholes has maintained a 92.37% pass completion rate, losing possession on average once every 154 minutes.

It’s this sort of measured, elegant movement of the ball that has made champions of Spain and Barcelona – and Scholes may well be the inspiration. “Paul Scholes is a role model,” says the man regarded this generation’s pass-master, Xavi Hernandez. “For me – and I really mean this – he’s the best central midfielder I’ve seen in the last 15, 20 years. If he’d been Spanish he might have been rated more highly.”

Xavi isn’t the only great of the game to rate the Manchester United mainstay. “Scholes is undoubtedly the greatest midfielder of his generation,” argues Zinedine Zidane, while Brazil’s Socrates says: “He is good enough to play for Brazil. I love to watch Scholes, to see him pass, the boy with the red hair and red shirt.” Typically, despite his incredible reputation among his peers, Scholes is quick to play down his own talents: “when [my career is] over I just want to be able look in the mirror and say, well, you were a half-decent player.”

For Scholes’ legion of admirers, that humility is part of what makes him special even beyond his feats on the pitch. “No celebrity bullshit, no self-promotion – an amazingly gifted player who remained an unaffected human being,” says Roy Keane. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger meanwhile suggests: “he [does] not get completely what he deserves as a player because he’s not a media lion. He’s not the one who runs after the media to be in the papers. I respect that.”

There’s a sense that Scholes is a player whose focus is resolutely on the pitch, with little time for the glittering lifestyle that comes with life at the top – a dying breed of footballer, particularly among the English.

Perhaps it should be of no surprise, then, that Scholes’ England career never really took off in the way it should have and ended prematurely, his managers at international level seemingly unable to accommodate a player whose approach to football is arguably more sophisticated than that of the rest of the team. Having guided Manchester United to such success in his time at Old Trafford – the 37-year-old has won 10 Premier League titles, the Champions League twice, 3 FA Cups, 5 Community Shields and 2 League Cups in his 18 years at the club – it’s tempting to wonder what England could have achieved had one coach had the guile to build their team around the dynamic, progressive Scholes rather than his flashier counterparts.

When Scholes lines up against Liverpool tomorrow, he'll make his 701st appearance in United colours (the third highest number after Ryan Giggs and Bobby Charlton). But whatever the outcome of that particular grudge match, his reputation as one of the game's greatest unsung heroes is beyond dispute.

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Leo Messi wins 2011 Ballon d'Or

by Al 10. January 2012 06:36

We are delighted to congratulate Icon Leo Messi on winning his third consecutive Ballon d'Or award. The 24-year-old Barcelona and Argentina superstar beat team-mate Xavi and Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo to land the prestigious title of world's best player. 

After legends Marco van Basten, Michel Platini and Johan Cruyff, Messi becomes the fourth player to win the award three times. And at such a young age, he is perfectly placed to smash the record set by his predeccesors in years to come. 

Messi played the starring role in Barcelona's Champions League triumph last season, and was named man of the match in the final against Manchester United. He also won the Primera División with Barcelona, as well as the the UEFA Super Cup, Club World Cup and Spanish Super Cup. 

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, Brazil legend Pele and UEFA president Michel Platini were among a host of leading football figures to lavish praise on Messi at the awards ceremony in Zurich. 

At Icons we have enjoyed an excellent relationship with Leo, having conducted our first signing with him when he was just 18. We met up with him for our sixth signing session together in December 2011. You can see our full range of signed Messi products here.

We are also proud to say that six of the FIFA 2011 World XI are on the Icons roster. Iker Casillas; Xabi Alonso; Andres Iniesta; Wayne Rooney; Cristiano Ronaldo; Leo Messi - the world's best six-a-side team?!

The rest of the World XI is made up of Sergio Ramos; Gerard Pique; Dani Alves; Nemanja Vidic and Xavi. We are working on adding more of those names to our list, so sign up to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter for the latest news!

Messi leads Icons named on Ballon d'Or shortlist

by Al 1. November 2011 08:28

We are delighted to see our Icons making up nine of the 23-man shortlist for the prestigious Ballon d'Or. Barcelona and Argentina's Leo Messi is the overwhelming favourite, and will match Michel Platini's record of three consecutive Ballon d'Ors if he is triumphant. Last year there were five Icons on the shortlist. This year we have grown. Let us know who you would like to see next on the site by getting in touch on Twitter or Facebook.

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney is the only Englishman to have been nominated, and is one of only five players connected to the Premier League on the shortlist. Of those five, Manchester City's Sergio Aguero only played half of 2011 in England, while ex-Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas now plays for Barcelona. In Spain, Barcelona lead the way with an incredible eight nominees, while rivals Real Madrid boast five.

Which Icon will be crowned World Player of the Year? Here is the complete shortlist:

Eric Abidal (France), Barcelona

Sergio Aguero (Argentina), Manchester City

Karim Benzema (France), Real Madrid

Iker Casillas (Spain), Real Madrid

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Real Madrid

Dani Alves (Brazil), Barcelona

Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon), Anzhi Makhachkala

Cesc Fabregas (Spain), Barcelona

Diego Forlan (Uruguay), Inter Milan

Andres Iniesta (Spain), Barcelona

Leo Messi (Argentina), Barcelona

Thomas Muller (Germany), Bayern Munich

Nani (Portugal), Manchester United

Neymar (Brazil), Santos

Mesut Ozil (Germany), Real Madrid

Gerard Pique (Spain), Barcelona

Wayne Rooney (England), Manchester United

Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany), Bayern Munich

Wesley Sneijder (Holland), Inter Milan

Luis Suarez (Uruguay), Liverpool

David Villa (Spain), Barcelona

Xabi Alonso (Spain), Real Madrid

Xavi (Spain), Barcelona

Five of the Best: Manchester United Derby Moments

by Al 21. October 2011 09:47

Sunday sees the 161st Manchester derby take place at Old Trafford, with reigning Premier League Champions Manchester United looking to take three points and leapfrog their noisy neighbours into top spot. The Manchester derby has thrown up some iconic moments over the years, and having already recalled five great City moments, we turn our attentions to United.

*Remember to open video links in a new tab or window.

The Wayne Rooney bicycle kick

Prior to this wonder strike in February last season, Rooney had only managed five goals for United since August. Questions were being asked of United's talisman, but what a way to prove the old adage that while form is temporary, class is permanent. The scores were level at 1-1 in the 77th minute when Nani's floated cross sparked this magical moment of inspiration from Rooney. It was named Goal of the Season, and sent United eight points clear at the top of the table on their way to the title.

3-2 comeback at Maine Road

Brian Horton's City side were cruising at half-time in November 1993, 2-0 up courtesy of a Niall Quinn brace, but United's Eric Cantona-inspired second-half comeback made for one of the most remarkable derbies in memory. Sir Alex's side have developed something of a penchant for a dramatic comeback, and this ranks among their very best. Roy Keane's winner came right at the death, and judging by his celebration, he rather enjoyed it.

5-0 revenge at Old Trafford

In 1994, five years after the painful 'Demolition Derby' 5-1 defeat at Maine Road, Sir Alex and United exacted this sweet revenge. Ukranian Andrei Kanchelskis stole the show with a hat-trick, but Cantona's opener was superb too, as was Mark Hughes's finish at 1.30. This thrashing came at a time when United were completely dominant over City, who failed to record a single derby win during the nineties.

Michael Owen's 96th minute winner

Old Trafford explodes at Michael Owen's notorious 96th minute winner in September 2009. In one of the most gripping Manchester derby's of all time, City's Craig Bellamy looked to have snatched a point for the Citizens when he made it 3-3 in the dying minutes, but up popped substitute Michael Owen in the depths of Fergie time...

Gary Neville shuns Schmeichel

Ok, so it's not exactly Keane v Vieira, but here Gary Neville makes it abundantly clear to United legend Peter Schmeichel how he feels about his decision to join rivals City in 2002. Talk to the hand, Peter!

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Five of the Best: Manchester City Derby Moments

by Al 21. October 2011 04:38

With 22 points from a possible 24 so far this season, Roberto Mancini's Manchester City are enjoying their best start to a league season since 1897. The Sky Blues are top of the table and two points clear of Manchester United, but this Sunday's titanic clash at Old Trafford will put their ambitions to the test. With Sheikh Mansour's billions taking City to another level, the Manchester derby is more competitive than ever, and to honour this momentous footballing occasion, we've dug out five of City's best ever Manchester derby moments.

*Remember to open video links in a new tab or window.

The 2011 FA Cup Semi-final

We'll start with City's most recent highlight. A landmark 1-0 victory over United at Wembley sent the Citizens on their way to their first trophy in 35 years. Yaya Toure's winner (at 3.24) was the obvious highlight of their afternoon, but City fans might enjoy another viewing of Dimitar Berbatov's remarkable miss from three yards (0.40), and Paul Scholes' late sending off (5.15). All in all, not a bad day at the office for Roberto Mancini's side. 

The 1989 'Demolition Derby'

Events at Maine Road on 23rd September 1989 stunned English football. Newly-promoted City had won only one of their first six First Division matches, but that day they defied the odds to thump Sir Alex Ferguson's United 5-1. Fighting between rival fans spilled onto the pitch and delayed kick-off by ten minutes, but the result remains City's greatest ever derby win. Having spent large sums of money to bolster the United squad that summer, Ferguson was deemed fortunate to avoid the sack.

Denis Law's backheel

"I was inconsolable. I did not want to score the goal that sent United down," reflected Denis Law on the backheeled goal that (sort of) relegated his old club in 1974. After joining United in 1962, the Scot fired his way to legendary status at Old Trafford with 237 goals in 11 illustrious years. But after moving to City for one final season before his retirement, Law's return to Old Trafford turned out to be the ultimate heartbreaker... For him, that is. For City fans it was quite the opposite. Results elsewhere meant that United would have been relegated regardless, but for Blues it was the perfect way to see their rivals go down.

Gary Neville feeds the Goat

November 2002, and with the scores level at 1-1 in the final Manchester derby to be played at Maine Road, this awful blunder from Gary Neville - United captain for the day - gifted City's Shaun Goater a goal. City went on to win 3-1, and Neville's gaffe was immortalized in poem: "Derby day, the scores were level, then the Goat was fed by Neville".

Joe Hart is really, REALLY fast

Injury time at Eastlands in November 2008, and with City trailing 1-0, goalkeeper Joe Hart comes forward for a corner. He may look a little lost in the opposition's box, but when United launch a counter attack he knows exactly where he needs to be. Not only does he make up the entire length of the pitch at the speed of a 100-meter sprinter, he somehow manages to claw Wayne Rooney's 60-yard lob round the post. Incredible.

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Icons Legend of the Week #15: Mike Summerbee

by Al 18. October 2011 10:18

As Roberto Mancini and his star-studded squad look to usher in a glorious new era for Manchester City, they could do a lot worse than look to Mike Summerbee for inspiration.

Summerbee, Icons Legend of the Week #15, was the star of the show for City during the late sixties and early seventies, the most successful period in the club's history. In three seasons from 1967-70 Summerbee and City won four trophies under the fabled managerial partnership of Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison. The 1967/68 First Division title was followed by the 1969 FA Cup, and a League Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup double in 1970.

Some 41 years later, with owner Sheikh Mansour's billions pumping through the club, Manchester City looks an altogether different landscape. A return to their former glories looks a realistic possibility now, and with Summerbee as Club Ambassador, City retain an important link to their glory years.

Occupying City's right flank, Summerbee combined brilliant wing play and tireless running with a fiery temperament and tough tackling that ensured he was rarely far from the spotlight. His antics often enraged away fans, but he built up a great rapport with the City faithful, and was known for chatting to supporters as he sped up and down the wing during matches. 

Off the pitch he was George Best's closest friend (pictured together above), and during the swinging sixties the riotous pair were notorious for the extravagant party lifestyle they enjoyed in Manchester. They even started up their own clothing business together, although Best was frank in admitting that the shop's main purpose was to attract female attention.

Back on the field, while Best was dazzling at Manchester United, Summerbee was busy shaping his own legacy at City, making 357 league appearances between 1965-75, and scoring 47 goals.

Summerbee was born in Preston in December 1942, and began his professional career at Swindon Town, for whom he made his debut as a 16-year-old in 1959. After over 200 appearances for the Wiltshire club, City manager Joe Mercer forked out £35,000 to take him to Manchester. Summerbee made an instant impact at City, and in his first season he was the only player at the club to start every single match.

Summerbee's talent was combined with that of Colin Bell and Francis Lee, and together the trio formed the backbone of the most entertaining and successful City side there has ever been. While Summerbee sparkled on the wing, Bell elegantly controlled the middle of the park and Lee banged the goals in up front. City became the team to beat, and Summerbee embodied their exciting and entertaining brand of football.

Summerbee made his debut for England in 1968 and went on to win eight caps in total, scoring once. He left City in 1975, and in the years that followed the club began a long period of decline. Summerbee - whose son Nicky also played for City during the nineties - is a Manchester City man, and he would love to see the club return to former glories, albeit watching from the stands this time.

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Forward Friday: The King, Denis Law

by Al 14. October 2011 07:17

"The boy's a freak. Never did I see a less likely football prospect - weak, puny and bespectacled."

- Andy Beattie, Huddersfield Town manager 1952-56

Beattie's assessment of a 16-year-old Denis Law may have been slightly harsh, but when he first showed up at Huddersfield in 1955 few could have predicted that he would go on to illuminate British football.

Between 1962 and 1973 Denis Law (pictured right) formed part of Manchester United's 'Holy Trinity' with George Best and Bobby Charlton (left). They were the heartbeat of United's finest ever team. Tenacious, skillful and prolific; with 237 goals in 404 games Law was a true United legend. He remains the second-highest scorer in their history behind Charlton, but the road to Old Trafford was long and winding for the Aberdeen-born striker.

After four years at Huddersfield Town, Law moved to United's bitter rivals Manchester City for a British record transfer fee of £55,000 in 1960. United manager Matt Busby had previously had a £10,000 offer rejected, while Bill Shankly, Law's manager at Huddersfiled from 1957-59, had also failed in a bid to take him to Liverpool.

City had only narrowly escaped relegation from the First Division in the season prior to Law's signing, and after a single season at the club, Law, who made his Scotland debut as an 18-year-old in 1958, resolved to move to a more successful club. He signed for Italian side Torino in the summer of 1961. Law failed to settle in Italy, however, as his playing style clashed with the ultra-defensive Italian approach, and in 1962 he finally moved to United for £115,000, breaking the British transfer record once again.

Law was an instant success at Old Trafford, scoring just seven minutes into his debut against West Bromwich Albion. United were still recovering from the devastating effects of the 1958 Munich air crash, however, and it wasn't until 1963 that he won his first piece of silverware, the FA Cup. Law had scored a hat-trick in the semi-final against his old club Huddersfiled, and he scored again in the final as United upset favourites Leicester City with a 3-1 victory.

Law top scored with 28 league goals the following season and was named European Footballer of the Year as United secured the First Division title for the first time since Munich. More success was to follow, as United won the league again in 1967 and the European Cup the following year, albeit without the injured Law for the semi-final or final.

When Matt Busby resigned in 1969, United's strength began to wane. Law continued to be a prolific presence for the Red Devils, but was unable to add any more silverware to his collection and he moved back to City (pictured below) for one final season before retiring in 1974. 

Law scored 30 times for Scotland in 55 appearances, making him their joint-highest top scorer together with Kenny Dalglish. It is at Old Trafford, however, that he is most treasured. His statue stands on the concourse of Old Trafford's Stretford End, and is a fitting tribute to one of the finest players ever to pull on a Manchester United shirt.

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Take a look at Icons signed Denis Law Manchester United shirt here.

Forward Friday: The Baby-Faced Assassin, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

by Al 7. October 2011 06:44

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arrived at Manchester United in July 1996 an unknown quantity. In a summer where Newcastle United paid Blackburn Rovers a world record £15m for Alan Shearer, the acquisition of a £1.5m 23-year-old striker from Norway went largely unnoticed.

It didn't take him long to emerge from the shadows though.

In fact it only took him a few minutes. Solskjaer bagged his first goal for United six minutes after coming off the bench on his debut against Blackburn. He went on to build a reputation as Sir Alex's "super-sub" for his remarkable ability to score crucial goals late in games after coming off the bench, and in his first season he didn't waste any time in establishing himself as a key member of the first team squad. Capitalizing on Andy Cole's absence through injury, he finished the 1996/97 campaign with 18 Premier League goals, helping United win the title in the last few weeks of the season.

Nicknamed the "Baby-Faced Assasin" by the British media for his boyish looks and deadly finishing ability, Solskjaer went on to score 126 goals in 366 appearances for the Red Devils over the course of 11 seasons.

Solskjaer is a legend at Old Trafford, and won the affection of the United faithful not just through his important goals, but through a selfless attitude that always put the team above personal glory. This was highlighted by a defining moment in a match against Newcastle in 1998. With scores level at 1-1, United needed at least a draw to keep pace with Premier League leaders Arsenal in the title race. Newcastle's Rob Lee had broken free of the United defence when Solskjaer, knowing his side simply couldn’t afford to lose, came haring back to commit a professional foul and stop Lee from scoring. Solskjaer knew a red card and a hefty suspension would follow, but made the sacrifice without hesitation to keep their title hopes alive.

Solskjaer's greatest moment in a Manchester United shirt, however, came in their legendary Champions League final triumph over Bayern Munich in 1999. Typically, this was a match in which Solskjaer only emerged from the bench in the 80th minute. Trailing 1-0 in injury time, Teddy Sheringham equalised before Solskjaer scored the winning goal right at the death to cap a remarkable comeback. David Beckham's corner was flicked to the far post by Sheringham, where Solskjaer stuck out a leg to toe poke the ball into the roof of Oliver Kahn's net. It remains one of the most iconic moments in the club's history, and crowned a famous League, FA Cup and Champions League treble.

Sir Alex often praised Solskjaer's outstanding ability to study a game from the bench and know exactly how to hurt the opposition when he got his chance. In 1998 he scored four goals in 12 minutes after coming on as a substitute in United's 8-1 victory over Nottingham Forest. He repeated that feat against Everton the following year.

For the 2000/01 season Solskjaer was paired with Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy as he finally got a chance as a regular starter. He took the opportunity with aplomb, bagging 25 goals in what was his highest-scoring season for the club. Unfortunately Solskjaer's contribution over the seasons that followed began to wane due to a persistent knee injury, and on 27th August 2007 he announced his retirement from playing and joined the United coaching staff.

Solskjaer, who, with 28, holds the record for the most goals scored for Manchester United as a substitute, is now manager of Norwegian club Molde, where he played before joining United. His success has seen him linked with the managerial position at Blackburn, but at just 38, he might be holding out for something bigger. Successor to Sir Alex? A touch optimistic, perhaps, but if there's one man capable of springing a surprise; it's Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

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Check out our signed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer products here, including a brilliant photo of THAT Champions League-winning goal.

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Icons Legend of the Week #12: Cristiano Ronaldo

by Al 27. September 2011 10:34

Love him or loathe him, Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo looks like £80m well spent. Since his record-breaking move from Manchester United, the world's most expensive player has justified his astronomical transfer fee in emphatic fashion.

Ronaldo's arrival in Madrid in June 2009 came just days after the £57m signing of Kaka from AC Milan. It was the dawning of a new Galactico era. After all, it was the now reinstated Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez who oversaw the club's exorbitant spending between 2000 and 2007, during which time Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, the Brazilian Ronaldo and David Beckham arrived at the Bernabeu for fees totaling in excess of £140m.

In terms of an individual contribution to Real Madrid, however, Cristiano Ronaldo can claim precedence over all of the above. The Portuguese specializes in goals, and his record at Real is staggering. In 68 La Liga appearances, he has hit 74. In total he has 94 in 97 games. During his most prolific season in England (2007-08), he scored 42 goals in 49 games, but it was not until his move to Spain that he was able to hit those phenomenal heights on a consistent basis.

Ronaldo is a complete forward. He is a remarkable athlete, and his incredible pace and strength are absolutely key to his game. Precision shooting, devastating free-kicks and an unparalleled box of tricks combined with aerial prowess and steely determination put him at the very top of his profession.

Ronaldo earnt a reputation for showmanship during his formative years, but he matured considerably under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, and now couples his precocious talent with a strong work ethic. He still plays the pantomime villain, but it is a role he relishes, and he thrives under scrutiny. After receiving a particularly hostile reception from Dinamo Zagreb fans in a recent Champions League tie, Ronaldo – current captain of the Portugal national side - responded with typical swagger. "I think that because I am rich, handsome and a great player people are envious of me," he said.

In La Liga and in Europe, Ronaldo - FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d'Or winner in 2008 - vies with Barcelona's Leo Messi to top the scoring charts. Last term in La Liga he managed it, becoming the first player to score 40 goals in a single season in Spain. He smashed a host of records in the process, and usurped Ferenc Puskas as the fastest Real Madrid player to reach 50 goals. He also became the first player to win the European Golden Shoe in two different leagues, having previously won it in the Premier League with United.

Despite Ronaldo's phenomenal efforts, Real have been unable to supplant Barca in La Liga since the 2007/08 season. His only trophy with Real to date is a Copa del Rey, but having won three Premier League titles and a Champions League with United, Ronaldo is no stranger to success. And with fellow Portuguese Jose Mourinho at the helm, it's surely only a matter of time before he adds more silverware to his CV.

Since his £12.2m transfer from Sporting Lisbon to United in 2003, Ronaldo's career has been on a steep upward trajectory, and at just 26 years old, it looks like he has a long way to go yet.

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About Icons Memorabilia

Welcome to the icons blog, we'll be regularly posting here about what's going on with our star signings and what new products have arrived

We love what we do so we'll also be talking about what's going on in the world of football and sport in general.

We'd really appreciate your feedback and comments too.

Cheers - The icons.com team.

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