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What happened to 10 stars dubbed next Cristiano Ronaldo including Man Utd replacement

It is one thing to idolise, imitate and play alongside Cristiano Ronaldo; it is a wholly different task to emulate him.

Having started his career at Manchester United, the Portuguese forward tasted success with four Champions League titles at Real Madrid after making his £80million world record transfer in 2009.

Some 674 later at club level, and another 109 at International to break the all-time record — Ronaldo is now 36 and is still showing no signs of slowing down.

So to suggest there is another physical specimen that can even come close to what Ronaldo, or even Lionel Messi, have achieved does a disservice to the superstar duo.

But some players can dream of reaching the pinnacle of football in the manner that they have.

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Cristiano Ronaldo remains one of the greatest players to have graced the game

As Ronaldo approaches the final years of a glittering career, the torch will need to be passed on at some point and Portugal will be searching far and wide for a player to fill his famous boots.

Some players found the burden too great to cope with and struggled to deliver on their promise, but there remains some high hopes for emerging youngsters hoping to match his achievements.

Mirror Football looks at 10 players who were dubbed ‘the next Ronaldo’ and what happened next…


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Nani was signed as a potential long-term replacement for Ronaldo


Man Utd via Getty Images)

Sir Alex Ferguson perhaps envisioned Ronaldo one day moving on because in 2007, the Manchester United manager swooped to sign 20-year-old Sporting Lisbon winger Nani for £21m.

A natural winger with an abundance of tricks, pace and a unique technique of striking the ball, the comparisons with Ronaldo were inevitable — having also emerged from the same academy.

He even moved into the Portugal star’s digs at the beginning of his career in Manchester to help him settle in the area.

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But Nani was determined to forge his own style of play and marked his first goal in English football with a 30-yard strike against Tottenham.

While he did not quite reach Ronaldo’s heights, he would go on to make 230 appearances for the Red Devils, scoring 40 goals in that time and won the Champions League along with four Premier League titles.

Nani headed to Fenerbahce, Valencia, Lazio and finally back home to Sporting before joining MLS outfit Orlando City in 2019, where he currently plays at the age of 34.

He also won 112 caps for the Selecao, scoring 24 goals before retiring from international duty in 2017.

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Which player do you think is most like Cristiano Ronaldo? Let us know in the comments section below.

Joao Felix

Joao Felix cost £113m from Benfica, making him the fourth-most expensive player in football history


POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Portugal’s next star has not yet hit the heights at Atletico Madrid after making a £113m record move from Benfica in 2019.

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Having struck 20 goals in his first season for the Lisbon outfit, he has found the net just 19 times in 76 games for the Los Rojiblancos.

The 21-year-old does not possess many similarities to Ronaldo in terms of their playing style, with Felix more of a No.10 and a forward blessed with great skill but not the same blistering pace.

But just as Ronaldo has carried Portugal on his shoulders with 109 international goals, the torch will be passed to Felix to hold for years to come.

The status that comes with such expectation is difficult to manage, with Felix dubbed ‘The Golden Boy’ in the Portuguese press.

But he can take solace from the fact Ronaldo’s career did not truly take off until he turned 22 when he scored 42 goals in the 2007-08 season — and perhaps his will too in Spain in 2021-22.

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Goncalo Guedes

Much was expected of Goncalo Guedes but his career stagnated at Valencia



There are several factors about Guedes’ rise which makes him a sure-fire Ronaldo clone: winger, speed merchant, Portuguese and represented by Jorge Mendes.

But his career trajectory has not quite taken off as he would have perhaps liked.

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Guedes was one of several starlets sold by Benfica in their teenager years, making a £25m move to PSG.

However, he featured only 13 times for the French giants and after a successful loan stint joined Valencia on a permanent deal.

His reputation has taken a hit due to injury problems and Valencia’s gradual decline, although he did score the winning goal against the Netherlands in the UEFA Nations League Final in 2019.

Gabriel Obertan

Gabriel Obertan scored only once for Man Utd in 28 appearances

Ferguson’s direct replacement for Ronaldo, things quickly went awry for Obertan in Manchester.

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The French winger had been signed for £3m from Bordeaux as a long-term successor to Ronaldo but it quickly became clear he did not possess the quality to match his achievements.

He scored just once in 28 appearances for the Red Devils and was sold to Newcastle United in 2011 for a similar fee. United’s next signings Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia would fare much better, while Obertan took on a bit-part role at St James’ Park.

Obertan had spells at Anzhi Makhachkhala, Wigan Athletic, Levski Sofia and finally Erzurumspor in Turkey, where the 32-year-old currently plies his trade.

Joelson Fernandes

Joelson Fernandes (L) is Sporting’s next star at 18 years old


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AFP via Getty Images)

If there is a player in world football most likened to Ronaldo, it is Sporting’s newest starlet fresh off the production line.

Joelson, as he is commonly known, is still only 18 but the promising forward has already made four appearances for the Portuguese outfit’s first team.

However, after breaking onto the first-team fold last season, he has spent the majority of 2020-21 playing for Sporting’s Under-23 side to gain some experience.

Arsenal had been linked with the highly-rated winger last summer but were put off by Sporting’s £20m demands.

A fee in that region could prove to be a bargain if the Guinea-Bissau born youngster develops into a player anywhere close to Ronaldo’s ability, though.

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Alvaro Vadillo

Alvaro Vadillo saw his career wrecked by two serious knee injuries



There were high hopes for Real Betis youth star Alvaro Vadillo when he burst onto the scene in 2011.

Alas, injuries would play their part in denying him a chance to live up to his ‘next Ronaldo’ tag.

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Vadillo had been talked about as a potential star for Spain after appearing for the Under-21s, but he had the same build as Ronaldo: around six foot, muscular and able to strike from distance.

Unfortunately, it was against Ronaldo’s Madrid where his dreams went up in smoke. Vadillo injured his ACL in a challenge with Sergio Ramos and that brought his season to a premature end.

As a matter of fact, United had wanted Vadillo when he was just 17 before he injured his knee and his career took a downward turn after suffering the same injury in 2014.

He went on to play for Huesca, Granada and Celta de Vigo, before joining newly-promoted Espanyol on a permanent deal this summer.


Bruma was another player to emerge from the Sporting CP production line
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Like Ronaldo, Bruma’s career at Sporting was short-lived. He made his debut aged 18 and scored six goals in 25 games in his opening season.

But a contract issue saw him fall out of favour and he headed to join Galatasaray for £10m in 2013.

Having struggled in his first two seasons in Turkey, Bruma secured a move to RB Leipzig in 2017 before joining PSV Eindhoven two years later.

He spent last season on loan at Olympiacos, suggesting that his hopes of emulating Ronaldo may be beyond him.

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Francisco Trincao

Francisco Trincao joined Wolves on loan from Barcelona

It seemed that Barcelona could have had the best of both worlds: the current Messi and the potentially new Ronaldo when they secured a deal to sign Trincao from Braga last summer.

But the Portuguese struggled to make enough of an impression following his £25m transfer last summer, scoring only five times in 43 appearances.

The 21-year-old saw his debut campaign overshadowed by the excellent Spanish teenager Pedri, and after Wolves showed their interest in the winger, Barca — who are facing a financial crisis — decided to flog the attacker.

He joined the Premier League outfit on a season-long loan with a permanent option included. Perhaps his hopes of emulating Ronaldo are not over just yet if he can hit the heights in England.

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Wilfried Zaha

Wilfried Zaha has made nearly 400 appearances for Crystal Palace but flopped at Man Utd

United had invested heavily in Wilfried Zaha when the winger shot out of the blocks at Crystal Palace as a youngster, paying a £15m fee for the 20-year-old before loaning him back to the Eagles for the rest of the season.

But Zaha’s hopes of following in Ronaldo’s glorious footsteps were quickly dashed. Despite possessing great potential and an unmatchable skillset, he found life tough at Old Trafford.

He made only two Premier League appearances for the Red Devils after failing to settle in Manchester and fell out with manager David Moyes, heading to Cardiff City on loan.

Ultimately, it became clear that Zaha belonged back at Crystal Palace and following another loan stint, he headed back to Selhurst Park in a £3m deal in 2015.

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Since then, the Ivory Coast international has looked every bit a Premier League star, scoring 68 goals in 393 appearances across his two spells at the club.

Jese Rodriguez

Jese Rodriguez left Real Madrid but his career was plagued by injury and a loss of form



There is a common argument thrown at players from LaLiga that they “couldn’t do it on a cold Tuesday night in Stoke”.

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Jese Rodriguez put himself to the test in the 2017-18 season — and proved just how difficult it could be.

The former Real Madrid trainee had a bright future set out for him at the Santiago Bernabeu, but he grew impatient with his lack of first-team opportunities, having scored 18 goals in 96 appearances.

In 2016, he signed for PSG in a deal worth £22m, but a period out with appendicitis and a lack of form saw him head back to Spain with Las Palmas on loan just five months later.

He scored just once in his 14 games at Stoke after sealing a loan move there and off-the-field issues saw him return to Spain on compassionate leave.

Once earmarked as one of Spain’s most talented forwards, he is on the books at La Liga 2 outfit Las Palmas after seeing his PSG contract terminated.

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