What happened to seven players dubbed the next Cristiano Ronaldo including Man Utd flop? | Football | Sport
Home » Matches » What happened to seven players dubbed the next Cristiano Ronaldo including Man Utd flop? | Football | Sport
What happened to seven players dubbed the next Cristiano Ronaldo including Man Utd flop? | Football | Sport

With five Ballon d'Ors to his name, four Champions League titles and over 800 career goals in his prestigious career, following Cristiano Ronaldo's path as a footballer would not be the worst move for any young hopeful to make. Formerly the holder of the record for the highest transfer fee in history, the £80million star is an inspiration to millions of people - and that includes Players making their start in the game.

From Manchester United to Real Madrid to Juventus and then back to Old Trafford, Ronaldo at 38 is recognised as one of the greatest Players to grace the game, and any comparisons made with the Portuguese would raise some eyebrows.

But just as being touted as the 'next Ronaldo' could have benefits in terms of making a player seem more attractive to sign, not all would deal with the pressure that such a tag comes with.

Seven Players in particular were given such a label and here, Express Sport looks at how their careers have panned out.


Of the Players who were closely compared to Ronaldo, none were quite as similar as Nani.

Like Ronaldo, he hailed from the same Sporting Lisbon academy as his compatriot and made the move to Old Trafford in 2007 for £21m. Sir Alex Ferguson saw Nani as a long-term replacement for Ronaldo and swooped to sign the winger who was only 20 at the time. He even moved into the Portugal star’s home at the beginning of his career in Manchester to help him settle in the area.

A natural winger with an abundance of tricks and pace, Nani even struck the ball in the same manner as Ronaldo. But for all of his memorable displays for the Red Devils, he never quite had the same drive for success and left the club in 2014 with 40 goals in 230 appearances, as well as scoring 24 goals in 112 caps for Portugal.

Addressing the tag in a recent conversation, Nani himself said he didn't understand why he was compared to Ronaldo in his career: "I heard that comparison a lot, but it didn't make sense," he told Relevo. "It was good to be compared to an out of the ordinary, but I had my own style."

Much like how he danced around defenders with the ball, Nani skipped around Europe from Sporting Lisbon to Fenerbahce, then Valencia to Lazio before going back to Sporting. He ended his career in Europe by signing for MLS outfit Orlando City in 2020 and now plies his trade in Australia with Melbourne City, having left Serie A club Venezia in 2022.

Zoran Tosic

In January 2009, at a time where Ronaldo was being linked with a move away, Zoran Tosic was signed for £7m from Partizan Belgrade with a view to eventually replacing Ronaldo.

The Serbian struggled in his two seasons at Old Trafford, making just five senior appearances, and later claimed he was being prepared to replace the Portugal forward.

“My first six months at the club were for me to prepare, to get stronger. And in the next six months it's important to try and break into the team and prove that I'm a United player," he said. "To be honest, I think that probably Cristiano was the best player in the team and so someone will come in to take his place.”

Tosic was never able to and any hope he’d be the next Ronaldo died down within months of his arrival, joining CSKA Moscow in Russia where he became a regular. He later went back to Partizan before spells in China and Kazakhstan, and at the age of 35, he plays for Lamia in Greece.

Francisco Trincao

Barcelona shelled out £25m to sign Trincao from Braga in 2020 after rave reviews of the Portuguese winger saw him likened to Ronaldo. But he is yet to build on a promising start to his career and now must start again in his native country after scoring just five goals in 43 apparances.

The 23-year-old saw his debut campaign overshadowed by the excellent Spanish teenager Pedri and Barcelona decided to flog the attacker on loan to Wolves. He joined the Premier League outfit for the 2021-22 campaign with a permanent option included but after bagging only one goal, he was sent back to the Camp Nou.

With Trincao surplus to requirements, he opted to return to Portugal with Sporting Lisbon for just £5.5m with a buy-back clause included, and at the Estadio Jose Alvalade, he will be hoping to resurrect his career at the former home of his idol.

Gabriel Obertan

Ferguson saw Obertan as a direct replacement for Ronaldo, but things quickly went awry for the winger in Manchester. The Frenchman was bought in a cut-price option from Bordeaux as a long-term successor to Ronaldo, only for it to quickly become clear that 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 £2m. 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.

Alvaro Vadillo

There were high hopes for Spanish star;et Vadillo when he burst onto the scene in 2011 with Real Betis. At around six foot tall and with a muscular frame, here was a right winger with the same build as Ronaldo and he was tipped to reach the top.

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. Unfortunately, it was against Ronaldo’s Madrid where his dreams went up in smoke after injuring his ACL in a challenge with Sergio Ramos and from there, he never quite recovered.

After suffering a recurrence of the same injury in 2014, Vadillo left Betis and made it back to the top flight with Huesca, Granada and Celta Vigo, before joining newly-promoted Espanyol on a permanent deal. Now 28, he is loan to second-tier side Eibar.


Ferguson always liked to watch a player before he signed them. But he made an exception for Bebe, who joined the club back in the summer transfer window of 2010, and it was a decision he would later come to regret.

As a Portuguese forward, he found himself being compared to Ronaldo right from the start. It was clear, however, he was nowhere near the level of the club’s current No 7 after being brought in from the Portuguese second tier.

Bebe scored two goals from six matches at Old Trafford before finding a home for himself in Spain with Rayo Vallecano. Now 32, he is currently on loan with Real Zaragoza.

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