There are perhaps few greater honours for a football player to receive than a statue to mark their accomplishments within the game.
The likes of David Beckham, Bill Shankly and Sir Alex Ferguson have all been immortalised in metal, but it was an infamous bust of Cristiano Ronaldo in Madeira that perhaps garnered the most attention in recent history.
Designed by Emanuel Santos, the bronze statue netted a resoundingly negative response when it was unveiled in March 2017 as a part of a ceremony renaming Madeira’s airport to Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport.
Many detractors felt the sculpture did not look enough much like the then-Real Madrid star, who attended the ceremony and had input on the design of the statue.
In fact, some felt it looked more like former Liverpool cult hero John Arne Riise, NBA star Kristaps Porzingis or F1 pundit David Coulthard than Ronaldo.
Santos, though, was seemingly not bothered by these opinions when he told Globo Sports: “Even Jesus did not please everyone. This is a matter of taste, it’s not as simple as it seems.”
“I used photos of Cristiano Ronaldo that I searched on the internet as a base. I put the photos next to me and started working on the bust.
“What matters is the impact that this work generates. There is always the possibility of making a difference, I was prepared for all this.”
In March 2018, Santos created a second, more traditional version of the bust, which was received much more kindly by the general public and was widely accepted to be a marked improvement on the first attempt.
What happened to the original bust of Cristiano Ronaldo?
Despite the reception of the original statue, which Santos said took between two and three weeks to complete, it was set to remain at the entrance of the airport.
However, just 15 months after it was put on display, the bust was removed – reportedly at the request of Ronaldo’s family through his CR7 Museum – and replaced by one created by an anonymous Spanish sculptor.
According to Diario de Noticias Madeira, airport director Duarte Ferreira said: “The museum asked us to replace it and place this bust instead, in homage to the athlete, and we thought we should do it. We have the other one stored.”