How Cristiano Ronaldo kick-started Hull City defender Ruben Vinagre's love affair with English football

It was Cristiano Ronaldo who opened a young Ruben Vinagre's eyes to English football – and the Hull City left-back will forever be grateful he did.

Vinagre was just four years-old when Ronaldo left the club he supported, Sporting Lisbon, for Manchester United, and 10 when his first spell in the Premier League came to an end, cemented as an icon in his country and the successor to Luis Figo in their fabled No 7 shirt.

Back then, Vinagre was probably not dreaming about Friday nights in Hull playing against Coventry City in the Championship but the fully-fledged Anglophile is itching to make his first league appearance in East Yorkshire.

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Now 24 – the age Ronaldo was when he moved to Real Madrid – Vinagre is on his third English club, after Wolverhampton Wanderers and last season Everton. He has only played for two in Portugal.

When he joined Wolves on loan from Monaco in 2017 they were a Championship club with Premier League pretentions. They were promoted in his first season, and the loan became permanent. Now on loan at Hull from Sporting, he believes history can repeat itself.

He will forever be thankful to Ronaldo for opening his eyes to English football.

"I grew up watching Ronaldo at Manchester (United) and I thought I'd love to play in England," he says. "When Wolves provided the opportunity of course I wanted to go there and prove myself.

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"Ronaldo opened up English football for Portuguese players. Now there are a lot of Portuguese players in the Premier League and the Championship.

ANGLOPHILE: Ruben Vinagre spent last season on loan at EvertonANGLOPHILE: Ruben Vinagre spent last season on loan at Everton
ANGLOPHILE: Ruben Vinagre spent last season on loan at Everton

"Every kid in football dreams about playing in England.

"My time at Wolves was unbelievable, I was very happy there but now I will do my best to repeat it here.”

With a loan at Olympiacos too, Vinagre has experienced more than his fair share of European footballing heavyweights but an injury-hit spell at Everton last season did nothing to dampen his enthusiasm for this country.

"English football is the best football in the world, it’s amazing – the intensity, the way the fans live for it, for me it's unbelievable," he says. "I've played in other countries and I've never seen it like this."

ROLE MODEL:  Cristiano Ronaldo joined Manchester United in 2003ROLE MODEL:  Cristiano Ronaldo joined Manchester United in 2003
ROLE MODEL: Cristiano Ronaldo joined Manchester United in 2003
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"You have more competition, every game is more difficult. Sporting are a big team, they play against small teams and always have control of the game. It's rare for a small team to surprise you. Here in the Premier League you see Man City can lose to the bottom team.

"I think that's the magic of English football."

And he sees similarities from his time at Molineux that make him think he can soon get back to the Premier League.

"For sure," he says. "I believe in the ideas from the coaching staff, I believe in my team-mates and I believe in the project.

"The idea (at Hull) is very similar, the mentality is very similar. When they spoke to me the first time I said to my wife, 'I want to go there. I will be happy there and I will achieve what I achieved before with Wolves.'"

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In Liam Rosenior he also has a coach who as a former full-back himself can improve Vinagre, but has good human qualities too.

"He's very good for me because I'm learning every day with him," says Vinagre. "He's taught me lots of things I can improve in my game so I'm growing.

"He cares about me. Every player likes a coach who cares about you. He gives me confidence and freedom to play football.

"He's very close to every person in the team, the guys in the kitchen, all the staff and everybody in the club."

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A sign of Rosenior's coaching credentials is how quickly Hull have hit the ground running this season – victory at Leicester City took them to 10 points from their first five games.

Coaching is about getting ideas across but in the notoriously impatient Championship it is about getting them over quickly.

"The idea is very clear and he explained it to me when we spoke the first time," says Vinagre. "If you see the game against Leicester and other games, everybody know his job.

"We had people arrive in the last day of the window and they'll for sure learn very quickly because it's a clear idea. It's not easy to play but when you come here the gaffer explains everything."

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It was almost as if he had been listening at the door when Rosenior spoke to the media before him.

"We've still got a lot of gelling to do," he stressed, "We’ve had a good start but there's still a lot for us to improve.

"Continuity (from last season, when he took over in November) is so important. We’ve probably only had four players in our first XI that weren't here last season.

"I've been massive on coaching where players need to be on the pitch and for what reason – the whys are really important. Now the players know exactly where they need to be with and without the ball. That takes time."