What Makes Ronaldo the Ultimate Pop Culture Icon?

Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the most famous soccer players on the planet, with a reach almost as great as our adopted son, the pop culture phenomenon David Beckham.

Who is the 37-year-old, and why is he so revered worldwide, not only in sporting circles but wider pop culture?

Who Is Ronaldo?

For a while, the attacker was the second Ronaldo, known as ‘the Portuguese one’ when talking about soccer players. That is because, at the end of the nineties, the Brazilian striker of the same name was arguably more famous. Since then, Cristiano has surpassed the Brazilian, winning major trophies in four countries (Spain, Italy, Portugal and England) and lifting an international trophy with Portugal in 2016.



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A post shared by Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano)

He began his career with Sporting CP in his home country but moved to Manchester United, where he made his name. A record-breaking transfer to Real Madrid followed, where he underlined his ability with four Champion League wins, adding to the one he won with Manchester United. He lifted the Ballon d’Or four times with Madrid, once with United, and won four FIFA World Club Cups.

He spent two years in Italy with Juventus, winning the domestic title twice, before a second move to Manchester United. He’s now 37, and his current employers are rank outsiders for the Premier League title in the latest Coral betting odds, meaning silverware may be unreachable. However, he does have at least one major tournament left; the World Cup in Qatar, where he hopes to add to his 189 caps and 117 senior goals.

Why Has He Permeated Pop Culture?

Ronaldo isn’t just a soccer player; he’s a model, an entrepreneur and an icon. For a generation, he has been the best soccer player in the world, alongside Lionel Messi, and fans feel they know him. Earlier this year, he suffered a personal tragedy, and CNN reports the world grieved with him; he transcends rivalries now and has the respect of rival fans, players and clubs.


He is also a known philanthropist, which helps to command respect for the person behind the sporting achievements. In 2015, he was named the world’s most charitable sportsperson after donating £5 million to the relief effort after the earthquake in Nepal. He has released an app, CR7Selfie, which is purely a charity endeavor, and he is an ambassador for The Mangrove Care Forum in Indonesia, an organization aiming to raise awareness of mangrove conservation.

Social Media


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A post shared by Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano)

Being a pop culture icon demands a social media reach, and Ronaldo is the most popular athlete on the internet. He has over 730m followers across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as of August 2022, around 16% of the 4.62bn social media users worldwide.

Other Endeavors

He has released several apps and games, including Heads Up with Cristiano and Viva Ronaldo, and is officially licensed in games such as FIFA 22, Konami’s eFootball and the upcoming UFL. His clothing and fashion brand, CR7, boasts a handful of boutiques, and he has his own fragrance, Legacy, which is hugely popular. His soccer achievements have ensured he has been honored in his hometown; there’s a statue of him in Madeira, close to where he grew up, and the city also has a Ronaldo museum.