Just a stone’s throw from Madrid city center lies the Museo ABC, a former brewery turned trendy art space. It’s early evening, and bored-looking security guards skulk the tiny courtyard while journalists and other media types watch on. The weather is hot as hell, and the unforgiving Spanish sun shows no sign of letting up, sizzling unrelentingly against the building’s impressive mosaic facade. Two kids squint and take photos of the shimmer on their phones; it’s quiet enough to hear the camera click. Perhaps the city is still in siesta mode.
But then a blacked-out Mercedes rolls up and a silhouette emerges from the back seat. Broad shouldered and standing over six-foot tall, the figure dwarfs any of the aforementioned security guards. It’s Cristiano Ronaldo. The highest-paid and most recognizable athlete on planet Earth. The FIFA World Player of the Year incumbent and two-time previous winner. The person who inspired that statue. To see him in real life, standing blithely in such understated surroundings — a world removed from the great footballing cathedrals of Europe — almost feels inappropriate. Until now, I was convinced he was an avatar that only existed on TV screens and video games. There’s now palpable excitement in the air.
Ronaldo’s dominance on the pitch is reflected in his success off it. Like David Beckham before, the forward is a transcendent figure whose cultural impact resonates far beyond sport. But where Beckham’s celebrity was mostly owed to his looks and canny marketing, Ronaldo’s appeal, fundamentally, comes down to his near peerless footballing ability (and yes, he’s also extremely good looking). Over the years, his background team has managed to parlay this success into the CR7 empire, which encompasses everything from hotels to shoes to underwear. Today, Highsnobiety has been invited along to the launch of the CR7 fragrance, Ronaldo’s first casual, everyday scent.
After an hour of waiting around, I’m finally led upstairs into a room that’s bathed in red — Ronaldo’s lucky color. The big man is sitting at a table, flanked by his massive entourage and some Spanish reporters. They finish up, and we’re introduced. Ronaldo is utterly charming. Disarmingly so. Sure, we might be in a room that’s plastered with images of his own face, but in person he’s nothing like the arrogant, self-obsessed narcissist that most media outlets, or his own pitch demeanor, would have us believe.
“For this fragrance, [I wanted to make something] for both kids and adults,” he says, assuredly adjusting the mic on my phone. “It all depends on nice combinations. One of the smells I really love is cinnamon — I also eat it a lot! Vanilla is nice, too. We have eight different scents in there, but cinnamon and vanilla are the main two.” I ask him if he remembers the first aftershave he ever wore as a kid, which he doesn’t. When I tell him I never got any girls in high school because I used to wear too much, he starts laughing — at least someone finds it funny.
While some footballers find these extracurricular vocations and activities awkward, even difficult, for Ronaldo it comes naturally. As one of the crown jewels in Nike’s athlete roster, the kid from Madeira has embraced his ascent to icon status, working closely with the Swoosh on all kinds of special projects. Last year, he served as a muse for Oliver Rousteing, starring in the Balmain designer’s baroque-inspired collaboration with NikeLab. While working on this collection, the pair struck up a close friendship.
“It’s always nice to be around experienced people. Oliver is the greatest, one of the best. It was a cool [project]. And of course, I hope to work with him in the future again because he’s a fantastic guy, and his work is amazing. He gave me a lot of advice. But as I’ve said many, many times, every person has their own style, including me, so I’m happy with that.”
Aside from fashion, Ronaldo adores sneakers. Like Neymar, his fellow Nike Football peer, Ronaldo has recently been spotted flexing some of this year’s most-hyped models. Earlier in the summer, he undertook a trip to China where he opted to wear the game-changing Nike HyperAdapt 1.0 (in an unreleased colorway no less), while, prior to that, he took to Instagram in a pair of gold Nike Air Max 97s. “If I have to choose one range, it’s the Air Max,” he replies, instantaneously. “They’re comfortable and you can use with any kind of pants. I like Air Jordan, too.”
Given Ronaldo’s Real Madrid contract runs until 2021, and the fact he’s demonstrably one of the greatest physical specimens in football history, it’ll be a while yet before he needs to think about an alternative career. But where next for the CR7 brand? Cars? Jewelry? Sneakers? “We’re working on some projects,” he says, coyly. Before adding, “But you know, the future… it’s ripe.”
Cop the fragrance above, and then check out our recent interview with Ronaldo’s teammate Sergio Ramos.
- Main and Featured Image: David Ramos / Getty Images
- Image #1: Michael Regan / Getty Images
- Image #2: David Ramos / Getty Images