Birthday boy Ronaldo voted greatest ever Premier League player
Cristiano Ronaldo spent just six years in English football but as he celebrates his 30th birthday on Thursday the former Manchester United star has been voted as the greatest player to have graced the Premier League.
A survey conducted by Usurv for Press Association Sport showed Ronaldo was the people's choice, finishing ahead of Thierry Henry and Ryan Giggs, who joined him on the fantasy podium.
Ronaldo was brought to Old Trafford by Sir Alex Ferguson as a raw 18-year-old in 2003, and departed for Real Madrid in 2009 with three Premier League titles, a Champions League winners' medal and an FA Cup, and as the reigning FIFA world player of the year.
The Portuguese forward's extraordinary success has continued unabated in Spain, following what was at the time a record £80million ($122 million) transfer. Ronaldo has plundered goals and broken records at a breathtaking rate and developed a keen rivalry with Barcelona's Lionel Messi, the pair now firmly established as the leading two players of their era.
Ronaldo's talent was fine-tuned at United, where he scored 118 goals in 292 appearances, fully justifying his early billing as 'the new George Best'.
In an online poll of 1,000 members of the public, the choice offered was betweenRonaldo, Henry, Giggs and fellow luminaries Eric Cantona, Gianfranco Zola, Dennis Bergkamp, Steven Gerrard, Alan Shearer, Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira.
Marginally over a quarter of those surveyed chose an 11th option - specified as 'other/don't know'.
Ronaldo snared 177 of the 747 votes cast for one of the chosen star names, a 24 per cent share once the fence-sitters and contrarians are removed from the calculations.
Next in line was Arsenal favourite Henry, with 18 per cent of support, followed byRonaldo's former team-mate Giggs - the most decorated player in the league - on 13 per cent.
French maverick Cantona, the key on-field figure in establishing the Red Devils as the Premier League's early dominant force, took a 12 per cent share, as did the division's record goalscorer Shearer.
Keane, who sneered at prawn sandwiches and brought both brawn and brain to Ferguson's best teams, might be unimpressed by his two per cent haul of votes, but he still edged out old Arsenal foe Vieira who took a one per cent slice.
Regional variations were intriguing, with Henry leading the way in East Anglia, Newcastle favourite Shearer not surprisingly the pick of north-east voters, Giggs and Cantona scooping joint top spot in Wales, and Gerrard the favourite choice in Northern Ireland.
Ronaldo led the way in the East Midlands, London, north west, Scotland, south east and south west.
When it came to gender differences, Ronaldo ruled the roost for both men and women.
Shearer found considerably more support with women voters (16 per cent) than with men (nine per cent), while the opposite was true for Henry. The Frenchman who brought va-va-voom into the footballing lexicon was the preferred choice of 20 per cent of men, but just 15 per cent of women.
1 Ronaldo (177 votes - 24 per cent). 2 Henry (133 votes - 18 per cent). 3 Giggs (95 votes - 13 per cent). 4 Shearer (92 votes - 12 per cent). 5 Cantona (89 votes - 12 per cent). 6 Gerrard (77 - 10 per cent). 7 Bergkamp (40 votes - five per cent). 8 Zola (24 - three per cent). 9 Keane (14 votes - two per cent). 10 Vieira (six votes - one per cent).
*An initial sample of 1,000 was cut to 747, removing 253 participants who voted 'other/don't know'.
Men (sample of 402):
1 Ronaldo (92 votes - 23 per cent). 2 Henry (80 votes - 20 per cent). 3 Giggs (50 votes - 12 per cent). 4 Cantona (49 votes - 12 per cent). 5 Gerrard (37 votes - 9 per cent). 6 Shearer (36 votes - nine per cent). 7 Bergkamp (33 votes - eight per cent). 8 Zola (14 votes - three per cent). 9 Keane (nine votes - two per cent). 10 Vieira (two votes - zero per cent).
Women (sample of 345):
1 Ronaldo (85 votes - 25 per cent). 2 Shearer (56 votes - 16 per cent). 3 Henry (53 votes - 15 per cent). 4 Giggs (45 votes - 13 per cent). 5= Cantona & Gerrard (40 votes - 12 per cent). 7 Zola (10 votes - three per cent). 8 Bergkamp (seven votes - two per cent). 9 Keane (five votes - one per cent). 10 Vieira (4 votes - one per cent).