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Ronaldo museum opens with space for another 'Ballon d'Or'

Cristiano Ronaldo, who plays for Real Madrid and Portugal's national soccer team, poses with his statue during the inauguration of his museu
Cristiano Ronaldo, who plays for Real Madrid and Portugal's national soccer team, poses with his statue during the inauguration of his museu

By Daniel Alvarenga

FUNCHAL, Madeira (Reuters) - Real Madrid and Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo opened a museum in his honor in his birthplace on Sunday, which he said had extra room for the Ballon d'Or and many other trophies to come.

Standing next to his 2008 Ballon d'Or and 125 other individual and team awards dating back to his Madeira childhood, the 28-year-old told reporters the CR7 Museum was a gift to his fans.

"Of course it's a special day, it's the opening of my museum and I am proud," the Portugal forward, who has scored 33 goals this season, said.

"I have room for more trophies. I don't really want to mention specific ones. All I want is to win more awards and if the Ballon d'Or comes, there is extra room here."

Soccer's world governing body named him, Barcelona's Lionel Messi of Argentina and Bayern Munich's French winger Franck Ribery as the three finalists for the 2013 Ballon d'Or award, formerly known as FIFA World Player of the Year.

Ronaldo, this year's World Soccer magazine's player of the year, said he was not desperate to win the most prestigious individual award in the sport.

"The World Soccer magazine's player of the year award was another important trophy but it does not mean I will win the Ballon d'Or. I hope that happens but I am not obsessed about it." The Ballon d'Or results will be announced on January 13.

Despite the frenzy of reporters and fans at the opening, the space is more humble than your average museum.

It occupies the ground floor of a discreet five-storey building, a few hundred meters from the Funchal city centre and with a view of the Atlantic Ocean.

With an idyllic sunny day greeting him back, it is easy to understand why Ronaldo took the chance to remember that leaving this place remains his hardest moment as a footballer.

"You can't win anything without sacrifice. Mine was to leave Madeira when I was 11 and try it out at Sporting. To move out to the mainland was the hardest thing in my career".

Curious neighbors stood on their balconies to witness the ruckus, unusual on the quiet island with 260,000 inhabitants, famous for its luxuriant biodiversity, strong-flavored bananas and fortified wine.

CHIPPED TROPHY

It is not any 28-year-old that has the chance to cut the ribbons to a museum in their name but Ronaldo said his treasure cove deserved it.

"Here is the evidence of what I have won, no one will take it away from here and these were things I wanted to share with my fans, show them what I have already achieved," Ronaldo said.

The first piece on display, probably the smallest, dates back to when Ronaldo was eight and top-scored in a tournament with his first club Andorinha, Portuguese for swallow.

The next youth trophy misspelled his first name, attributing it to 'Christiano', and was half broken, contrasting sharply with the two shiny Golden Boots - won as Europe's top marksman - and a lifesize wax figure of him in a Portugal shirt dominating the main room.

"Does the statue look the same or what?" he asked reporters. "No, I think it looks more handsome (than me)," Ronaldo joked.

Ronaldo paid tribute to Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson, who oversaw his rise to stardom over a six-year spell at the English Premier League club, his family and agent Jorge Mendes as some of those who helped him succeed.

All the match balls from games in which Ronaldo scored at least a hat-trick are also on display, the last from a stunning performance in Portugal's 4-2 win over Sweden that earned them a berth at Brazil's World Cup.

The front page of local newspaper Diario de Noticias da Madeira' showed what the museum means to his people back home.

It displayed an eight-year-old Ronaldo wearing an oversized pink shirt while receiving his first trophy with a shy smile under the headline: "Trophies for the world to see".

(Reporting by Daniel Alvarenga; editing by Clare Lovell/Rex Gowar)

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