Cristiano Ronaldo, the three-time Ballon d'Or winner, reigning European champion at both club and international level and one of the greatest footballers of all time, faces a special reunion with the team that nurtured him as a sprightly teenager.
Sporting Lisbon, the club for which he left his home and family on the island of Madeira aged just 12, travel to the Bernabeu for a Champions League group stage meeting on Wednesday night, and Ronaldo has much to be grateful to the Portuguese champions for.C
It was there that he rose through the youth ranks; that he decided to give up school entirely in order to concentrate on football; and that he convinced Sir Alex Ferguson to take him to Manchester United.
But although Ronaldo never lost faith in his ability, it was far from a completely smooth rise to the top.
"It was very traumatic to leave my family," Ronaldo says of his permanent move to Portugal's capital following a successful three-day trial.
"I had never even been on an aeroplane before. When I saw my mother crying at the airport, it made me want to cry as well.
"There were a lot of tears in my first few weeks in Lisbon. Madeira is so small, I couldn’t believe the traffic and noise of a capital city. About 10 of us lived in a room inside the Sporting Lisbon stadium. I used to call my family whenever I could.
"In the beginning, nobody could understand me because of my accent and I couldn’t understand them either. It was awful."
Ronaldo quickly grew up, though, and by the age of 17 he had been elevated to Sporting's first team. In his first appearance he came off the bench to score twice. His first ever professional goal was a pretty good one, too, complete with customary stepover:
The following pre-season Sporting faced United in a friendly, and the torrid time Ronaldo gave right-back John O'Shea convinced Ferguson to insist on signing him before they boarded the plane home.
"John O’Shea was sitting there [at half-time] like he needed some oxygen," Rio Ferdinand said after the game. Roy Keane put it more succinctly: "We always joked with Sheasy that he’d sealed the deal by playing like a f— clown."