Cristiano Ronaldo (CR7) is considered one of the most talented soccer players to ever play the game. Now age 38 and playing the twilight of his career in Saudi Arabia, the Portuguese superstar is still scoring in bunches for club and country.
Throughout his illustrious career — playing at Sporting Club de Portugal, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus, and Al-Nassr — Ronaldo was perceived as one of the more egotistical players of his generation. Not all fans feel this way, but some believe Ronaldo’s larger-than-life personality and individualism on the pitch gave the perception he is a selfish man.
On the pitch, Ronaldo may be a loud, demanding presence, but off it, he has done significant charity work. In 2015, CR7 made the “Top 20 Athletes Gone Good List” alongside other famous sports icons such as Neymar, Maria Sharapova, and John Cena. He has helped families pay medical bills, donated to conservation efforts, and sent aid to victims of natural disasters.
Much of the most notable moments of Ronaldo’s charity work happened during his time at Real Madrid. From 2009 to 2018, he scored 451 goals, becoming the club’s all-time leading goalscorer. He also won four Champions Leagues (three consecutively), the La Liga title twice, the Copa Del Rey twice, and a European Championship with his home country, Portugal. At the same time, he helped a young child get life-saving brain surgery.
Photo Courtesy Cristiano Ronaldo
In 2014, Ronaldo fit the bill for then-10-month-old Erik Ortiz Cruz. The child suffered from epileptic seizures daily. His condition could only be cured by an expensive surgery. The family, unable to pay the cost, received a donation from Ronaldo after he auctioned a pair of his cleats.
However, CR7 wanted to do more, so he paid more than 55,000 pounds for Erik’s operation. Some publications claimed the professional footballer spent over $83,000 on medical costs.
That same year, the Portuguese striker raised money for kids fighting leukemia. After winning the Ballon d’Or in 2014, he celebrated with a group of kids he promised to shout out at his acceptance speech. He has also paid for a 9-year-old’s cancer treatment and donated to several childhood cancer centers in Portugal. The donations came from a libel suit he won over a British tabloid in 2008.
When the forward was voted FIFA Men’s Player of the Year in 2014, he reportedly bought cars of each of the Real Madrid trainers. The cars were thank-yous for keeping him fit during the season. Ronaldo is also an ambassador for Save the Children, World Vision, and UNICEF.
However, the charity work was not exclusive to his time at Real Madrid. Despite it being the peak of his global stardom, Ronaldo sent aid to the Indonesia tsunami victim fund after he saw a fan in his Portugal No. 7 shirt on the news in 2004. The two reunited in 2013 when Ronaldo returned to Bali to promote the mangrove conservation effort he joined.
More recently, Ronaldo donated to Portuguese hospitals during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In February 2023, he contributed to recovery efforts following the devastating Turkey-Syria earthquake.
More than $350,000 allowed for the transportation of food, tents, blankets, and medical supplies to the affected areas.
These are just some examples of Ronaldo’s charity work. In 2017, ESPN published a list of more charitable deeds he is responsible for, including auctioning off his 2013 Ballon d’Or trophy for Make A Wish, and building a children’s hospital in Chile.
Photo Courtesy Cristiano Ronaldo
Charity work gets overlooked when it comes to understanding Ronaldo. The on-pitch persona does not represent his generosity away from the game. Though he is high-flying, boisterous, and only rivaled by his contemporary Lionel Messi, the Portuguese forward has never shied away from the spotlight, but his generosity is real.
But even he and Messi agree the kids matter more. Both were involved in auctions to raise money with CharityStars, an online charitable auction service. The two superstars offered one-on-one experiences with Messi at Barcelona and Ronaldo at Real Madrid. The auctions included signed merchandise that supports the Forever Dream Foundation, which grants kids suffering from mental or physical ailments meetings with famous footballers.
Ronaldo said growing up in a humble, working-class home is one of the reasons why he gives so much to charity. Both of his parents worked long hours to provide for him and his family.
“My father always taught me that when you help other people, then God will give you double,” Ronaldo said in 2013. “And that’s what has really happened to me. When I have helped other people who are in need, God has helped me more.”