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The distorted parallel of Cristiano Ronaldo and Ricardo Quaresma’s intertwined careers

There was a time when a teenage winger at Sporting CP was tipped to become the best player in the world... he was a team-mate of Cristiano Ronaldo

The year is 2002 and two teenage wingers are making a name of themselves among football’s elite.

Both play for Sporting CP and while the green half of Lisbon admire the skill and promise of both, one is considered above the other.

That brighter star’s name is Ricardo Quaresma.

The other is a skinny, stepover-obsessed youngster with blonde highlights and a sheepish smile — his name is Cristiano Ronaldo.

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In the 2002/03 season these two entwined souls both scored five goals in all competitions as Sporting finished third behind rivals Benfica and champions Porto.

Porto’s title-winning, Europe-conquering manager of that time, Jose Mourinho, would go on to manage both Quaresma and Ronaldo later in his career.

Quaresma, being the slightly older of the two, was judged by most to have more substance to accompany the style both wingers possessed.

But Ronaldo too was attracting scouts from some of Europe’s biggest clubs — Arsenal, Barcelona and Liverpool most notably.

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And so the two left Sporting in the summer with Quaresma joining Barcelona while Ronaldo joined Man United after impressing in a friendly against Alex Ferguson’s men.

Fergie encouraged his new signing to take the legendary No7 shirt worn by previous Old Trafford greats such as George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona and David Beckham.

While Quaresma stuck with No20, the number he wore at Sporting and the same he wears for Portugal these days, with Ronaldo occupying No7.

In a way the pairs’ numbers are symbolic of their post-Sporting careers.

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Ronaldo ensured that by the time he left United his name was worthy to stand alongside Best, Beckham and co.

Whereas Quaresma’s development stalled at Barcelona.

He didn’t care for Frank Rijkaard’s tactical musings and believed he should be given a free role, unburdened by concerns of shape, balance or defensive duties.

No player is bigger than Barcelona’s philosophy, certainly not a newly-signed 20-year-old.

AFP
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In contrast, Ronaldo hoovered up every morsel of Ferguson’s wisdom.

He surrendered to the hierarchy of United’s dressing room and allowed himself to be moulded by the greatness around him.

Like a magpie he pinched knowledge from where he could; Ryan Giggs’ dribbling, Ruud van Nistelrooy’s movement, Roy Keane’s desire.

Quaresma could have done the same in Catalonia where Ronaldinho, Luis Enrique, Edgar Davids, Carles Puyol and Xavi all resided at the time.

But instead his undeserved sense of entitlement restricted him to a solitary goal in the famous red and blue stripes before he was sold to Porto.

He enjoyed relative success back in Portugal, delighting in the drop in standard and filling up his trophy cabinet with three league titles and four other cups in four seasons.

News Group Newspapers Ltd
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Quaresma’s party tricks are better than most.

At Porto he perfected the trivela technique.

No other player in the modern era is able to strike a ball with the outside of the boot with as much power and precision as Quaresma.

His compilation of best ever goals makes for extraordinary viewing.

He’s also a promoter of the rabona, regularly using the eye-catching crossover of feet to provide crosses or throughballs.

But these weapons act as compensation, making up for his lack of effectiveness elsewhere.

EPA
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While Quaresma was at Porto, Ronaldo was storming his way to superstardom at United.

The realisation that three stepovers and a dragback to make room for a cross was inferior to a simple cut inside and shot made him the Premier League’s most dangerous threat.

A tricky winger became a devastatingly effective wide forward as Ronaldo learned the power of directness.

In 2008 the two former team-mates were at polar opposites.

PA:Press Association
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Quaresma joined Inter Milan; recruited by new boss Jose Mourinho, who remembered the teenage sensation at Sporting.

But once again a refusal to adopt to a tactical system hindered his career.

He was awarded the Bidone d’oro, an award given to the worst player in Serie A.

That same year, Ronaldo won his first Ballon d’Or.

Getty Images
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Since then Ronaldo has redefined greatness at every turn, shattered records, and racked up scarcely believable numbers.

Were it not for Lionel Messi, his stranglehold on world football would be merciless.

Quaresma had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it loan at Chelsea before moving to Besiktas where his abrasive personality led him to him being released six months before his contract expired.

In 2013 he joined Al-Ahli in the UAE Pro League, something not many notable European talents do before their 30th birthday.

If in 2008 the Portuguese pair were at polar opposites, five years later they were worlds apart.

Reuters
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Then Quaresma underwent a rebirth of sorts.

He rejoined Porto before rejoining Besiktas and played his part in back-to-back league titles for the Turkish club.

Only Wesley Sneijder provided more assists in the Super Lig last season.

Although these are small victories compared to Ronaldo’s triumphs – four Champions League crowns, five league titles, four Ballon d’Ors and counting.

EPA
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Euro 2016 brought the two back together and united them in glory.

Both were key players as Portugal conquered the continent.

For a brief moment, as they stood posing for photos arm-in-arm, it was easy to imagine an alternate reality in which they were two best players in the world, both having mined their raw talent for all it’s worth.

AP:Associated Press
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Unfortunately for Quaresma, this is merely a fantasy, and a distant one at that.

Only one of the 2002 Sporting wonderkid wingers has gone on to cement his eternal legacy.

As for the other, he will always be remembered as a gift gone to waste.

And the teardrop-tattooed maverick only has himself to blame.

One of the Portugal players to give Cristiano the most stick is a man who has sported some rather unusual styles himself - Ricardo Quaresma

Getty Images
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