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Ricky Regufe: The man behind Cristiano Ronaldo and his new life in Saudi Arabia

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Ricky Regufe: The man behind Cristiano Ronaldo and his new life in Saudi Arabia

When he came to Saudi Arabia to complete his move to Al-Nassr, it was no surprise to see Cristiano Ronaldo flanked by his best friend Ricardo Regufe.

The pair have been virtually inseparable since meeting in 2003, with Regufe a constant presence at every step of Ronaldo’s career, from teenage prodigy at Sporting Lisbon to global icon signing a record-breaking deal with Saudi Arabia.

Regufe was responsible for orchestrating Ronaldo’s sensational £175million-a-year move, with the 43-year-old a vital presence in the star’s life as both his friend and personal manager.

Ricardo Regufe, right, brokered the deal for Cristiano Ronaldo to join Al-Nassr

Ricardo Regufe, right, brokered the deal for Cristiano Ronaldo to join Al-Nassr

Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured) was officially announced as an Al Nassr player on Tuesday night

Known as Ricky, he was constantly pictured alongside Ronaldo throughout his career. Whether that’s when the star collects the Ballon d’Or, goes on holiday, and is even within the Portuguese national team set-up – much to the alleged annoyance of the star’s teammates.

The pair’s friendship spans over 20 years after first meeting in 2003. Regufe himself gave up his own dream of becoming a professional footballer at the age of 21, when he began to pursue a career in sports marketing .

He was recruited by Nike to look after their interests in his native Portugal, with the junior PR man meeting a 16-year-old Ronaldo then at Sporting Lisbon.

Regufe was key to Ronaldo signing a boot deal with Nike early in his career

Regufe was key to Ronaldo signing a boot deal with Nike early in his career

The pair enjoyed a close relationship with Regufe a close confidante of Ronaldo

The pair enjoyed a close relationship with Regufe a close confidante of Ronaldo

Regufe, centre, has taken on a heightened role in Ronaldo's career amid his split with Jorge Mendes

Regufe, centre, has taken on a heightened role in Ronaldo’s career amid his split with Jorge Mendes

Regufe was instrumental in ensuring that Ronaldo developed a close relationship with the sportswear giant, successfully convinced the teenage winger to sign a boot deal with Nike, which has since become more lucrative.

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Regufe himself admitted that the deal was a gamechanger for Ronaldo, Nike and himself.

‘Beginning to work for Nike at the age of 21 was a dream come true! And I was far from knowing that it would change my life forever! 2 years after I started, I signed the best player of all time,’ Regufe wrote on LinkedIn.

‘That was a complete game changer for Nike, for CR and for me obviously! What a trip it was! 18 years working for a great company with so many great teammates, players, coaches, agents, etc.

‘Learned a lot from all of them. It has helped me reach my best through a lot of dedication, passion, hard work, resilience and consistency! There is no finish line…!’

Regufe is pictured with Ronaldo at key moments in his career

Regufe is pictured with Ronaldo at key moments in his career

Regufe became Ronaldo's personal manager in 2018 after his previous job at Nike

Regufe became Ronaldo’s personal manager in 2018 after his previous job at Nike

Although managing Ronaldo’s commercial endorsements was Regufe’s first role, the bond extended far beyond the superstar forward’s business interests.

Ronaldo regularly posts photos of Regufe with his family, sharing meals with him and his son. The couple’s closeness led to their relationship being given the monkier nickname ‘Cricky’.

The executive’s social media accounts also documented his travels with Ronaldo, including visits to see UFC star Conor McGregor and boxer Gennady Golovkin.

Regufe - second left - has been close with the legendary forward since 2018

Regufe – second left – has been close with the legendary forward since 2018

Regufe plays the role of Ronaldo's personal manager and spends a lot of time with his family

Regufe plays the role of Ronaldo’s personal manager and spends a lot of time with his family

Despite being a fixture in Ronaldo’s life including serving as a cameraman on occasions for major events, including his arrival in Saudi Arabia, Regufe also shared photos of his personal life on Instagram.

He is married to fashion blogger Claudia Dinis – both of whom have been seen wearing Ronaldo shirts on their social media channels – with whom they have a daughter.

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Regufe’s overall work throughout his career has drawn praise, with current Liverpool sporting director Julian Ward among those who have spoken highly of him. Ward endorsed the executive on LinkedIn in 2013, having previously worked at the Portuguese FA between 2008 and 2010.

‘Ricardo is an intelligent and organized professional who has established strong relationships with coaches, players and practitioners working in elite level sport,’ Ward wrote.

Ricardo has a clear appreciation of the demands of international and professional sport. His knowledge of the football industry allows him to identify and support top athletes who represent the Nike brand.

‘His excellent personal skills, integrity and approachable manner mean he is always a pleasure to work with.’

Regufe is pictured with Ronaldo with boxing star Gennady Golovkin

Regufe is pictured with Ronaldo with boxing star Gennady Golovkin

He was with Ronaldo's team when they visited Conor McGregor (center) in Las Vegas

He was with Ronaldo’s team when they visited Conor McGregor (center) in Las Vegas

According to Athletic, Regufe was also viewed by Manchester United, where Ronaldo’s personal manger is considered an ‘effective operator’ but the club, who possesses the ‘ability to convince the star to do things’.

The club’s hierarchy are reportedly considering Regufe as the first point of contact should they need the star to perform for the club off the pitch.

Regufe’s extended role in Ronaldo’s life has, however, rubbed others the wrong way, with his presence becoming a source of controversy during Portugal’s World Cup campaign in Qatar.

Regufe is claimed to have ‘too much influence’ on the star, according to reports in Portugal, with a number of players not ‘understanding the reason’ for his inclusion in the squad.

Ronaldo’s personal manager is said to be sharing spaces designated for players, with some questioning why he is always so close to the team – including on match days.

However, Regufe has long been seen within the Portuguese set-up, sharing in Ronaldo’s successes and failures with the national team.

Since then Regufe has been seen pitchside on numerous occasions, most notably being the first to celebrate with the forward as Portugal won the Euro 2016 final, a match in which Ronaldo was tearfully ruled out through injury.

Such was their relationship, the pair were seen collapsing in each other’s arms on the pitch following the extra-time victory over France.

His presence in Portugal matches was reportedly questioned by some players

His presence in Portugal matches was reportedly questioned by some players

Regufe is reported to have had 'too much influence' on the Portugal star

Regufe is reported to have had ‘too much influence’ on the Portugal star

Having largely managed the commercial side of Ronaldo’s career, Regufe’s influence has reportedly expanded over the years, since leaving Nike to become his personal manager in 2018.

His involvement grew further following Ronaldo’s split with super agent Jorge Mendes, who managed Ronaldo’s big money throughout his career.

The split follows an alleged disagreement over Ronaldo’s controversial interview with Piers Morgan, which precipitated his departure from Manchester United in November.

Like Mendes, Regufe is believed to have advised Ronaldo against the interview, which was seen to end any lingering hopes of joining a major European side.

However, Regufe stepped forward to lead the negotiations for his transfer to Al-Nassr, making his involvement higher in his sports career.

As Ronaldo embarks on a new journey in Saudi Arabia, the ‘special player’ will undoubtedly have Regufe by his side every step of the way to support the new life he and his family are set to have in the Middle East.