Fine Wine

Eight ultimate football glow-ups as ugly ducklings evolve into hunks – including Ronaldo

When footballers burst onto the scene, they often only have one thought on their mind: making sure they succeed no matter what.

Years of progressing through the ranks has built to their make or break moment, which is all that matters to them.

As a result, most don’t give a second thought to their appearance in the early stages of their career.

However, once they’ve secured their spot in the sport and made mega bucks, their attention can turn to working on themselves instead.

And that has led to some incredible glow-ups through the years. Daily Star Sport is taking you through eight of the best.

Declan Rice

West Ham United's Declan Rice in action in 2018
Declan Rice didn’t even fill out his West Ham shirt in 2018

West Ham United's Declan Rice during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and West Ham United at Selhurst Park on January 1, 2022
Now the England star is a midfield machine

West Ham‘s Declan Rice has established himself as one of the Premier League‘s best midfielders at the age of just 23, but it’s not just his football that’s impressive.

He looks totally different to the skinny young man who made his England debut with a standard short back and sides.

Nowadays Rice dominates on the pitch thanks to his insanely muscular physique and looks good doing it too with his flowing curtains hairstyle.

Gary Neville

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England fullback Gary Neville (l) outpaces Scotland player Stuart McCall during the 1996 European Championships group stage match against Scotland at Wembley Stadium on June 15, 1996
It took some time for Gary Neville’s glow-up

Gary Neville looks on during the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United at Anfield on January 19, 2020
But now he looks sharp on our TV screens

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Gary, if you’re reading this, we’re sorry – but you were definitely the ugly duckling of the Class of ’92.

While Rice’s curtain are majestic, Neville‘s were questionable, and his trim didn’t get much better throughout his Manchester United playing days.

Since turning to punditry he’s chopped it back and adopted a much more suave appearance, though.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates a Man United goal in 2003
It beggars belief to look back at Cristiano Ronaldo’s beginnings

Cristiano Ronaldo is launching his own brand of bronzer
He’s one of the most attractive men on the planet today

As well as death and taxes, there’s one other certainty in life: no one will top Cristiano Ronaldo‘s glow-up.

When he arrived on English soil in 2003, the then 18-year-old had the teeth and dress sense of someone 60 years his senior and a terrible slicked back hairstyle.

Of course, after thousands upon thousands of hours in the gym and an improvement in his life choices, CR7 is now the envy of every male on planet Earth.

Antonio Conte

Juventus' captain Antonio Conte April 1999 celebrates his goal against Manchester United The game at Old Trafford is the first leg of the European Cup semi final
Antonio Conte suffered hair loss as a player

Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte on the sidelines
The Italian has no such problem nowadays

Tottenham boss Antonio Conte made the brave decision to get a hair transplant long before they were a well-discussed topic in the early 2000s.

He was clearly unhappy with the severe issues he’d been having, which were often focused on more than his performances.

The 52-year-old Italian has had the last laugh because he nows looks rejuvenated and youthful on the touchline.

Sergio Ramos

Real Madrid's Robinho (top) of Brazil celebrates with his teammates Zinedine Zidane of France (R) and Sergio Ramos after scoring against Malaga during their Spanish first division soccer match at the La Romareda stadium in Malaga December 11, 2005
Amongst a team of Real Madrid superstars Sergio Ramos stood out for the wrong reason

Sergio Ramos of PSG reacts during the French Cup match between Entente Feignes-Aulnoye and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at Stade du Hainaut on December 19, 2021
The PSG defender has glowed-up significantly

In the early days of his career Sergio Ramos sported long hair, and it did him absolutely no favours whatsoever.

Fast forward a few years and he finally got the mop cut, which combined with a new thick beard made him look incredibly handsome while flying into challenges for Real Madrid and Spain.

Ramos, who is also now shredded to the max, has since grown his hair out again, but he’s learnt from his earlier mistakes and keeps it tied up in a smart look for PSG games.

Luke Chadwick

Luke Chadwick of Manchester United lifts the trophy and celebrates being crowned FA Carling Premier League Champions after the match against Derby played at Old Trafford in Manchester, England
Premier League winner Luke Chadwick was targeted for his looks

Luke Chadwick of Cambridge United holds the FA Cup trophy at the Abbey Stadium on January 19, 2015
He stood tall against his critics and prevailed

Former United midfielder Luke Chadwick was relentlessly targeted for his appearance during his career and became the butt of a joke on TV panel show ‘They Think It’s All Over’.

He opened up about how it impacted his mental health in 2020, and then received apologies from presenting pair Gary Lineker and Nick Hancock.

Chadwick looks like a completely different man now, with his infamous braces long gone and a shaved looked suiting him very well.

Leon Goretzka

Leon Goretzka of Schalke runs with the ball during the Bundesliga match between FC Schalke 04 and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim at Veltins-Arena on February 26, 2017
There was once very little muscle on Leon Goretzka’s body

Leon Goretzka topless
The midfielder wouldn’t look out of place at a strongman event now

While Ronaldo’s may be the most impressive, Leon Goretzka’s glow-up was by far and away the quickest – he went from skin and bones to Popeye seemingly overnight!

Before the 2020 lockdown the Bayern Munich and Germany midfielder looked as though a slight gust of wind could blow him over.

He made the most of the time off and hit the gym like a mad man, so by the time the season resumed he had become football’s muscle man. Incredible stuff.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal against Celta de Vigo during the Primera Liga match between Celta de Vigo and Barcelona at the Balaidos stadium on August 28, 2006
He may have been scoring goals for fun, but Lionel Messi desperately needed a stylist

Paris St Germain's Lionel Messi
Now at PSG, Messi is looking as good as he’s ever done

Lionel Messi has epitomised the phrase ‘ageing like fine wine’ both on and off the pitch.

With every of the seven Ballon d’Or’s he has collected, the legend of the game looked better and better, though it could only go up from his initial out of control hairstyle.

Much like Ramos, cutting it short and growing a beard brought about a massive upgrade and he is now very attractive as a player and as a man.

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