‘I was loved by Ronaldo and on £6.5k-a-week at 13 – women and money ruined me’

Cristiano Ronaldo is often seen as the perfect footballing specimen physically and mentally, but what happens if you don’t have the mentality to match?

You end up like Fabio Paim, a former wonderkid who was admired by Ronaldo and tipped for greatness – perhaps more than CR7. But his career fell apart before it had even begun after being given too much too young.

Paim, like Ronaldo, joined Sporting Lisbon’s academy aged eight, leaving his mother and younger siblings behind. Such was his potential in the game, he found himself on £6,500-per-week when he was just 13, with a huge £130,000 annual bonus on top.

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Throughout his teenage years, his wages climbed to £5,000, £6,000 and £8,000 before spiking at £10,000 a week while on loan at Chelsea as a 20-year-old. Paim was tipped for the top and he was given incomprehensible wages as a teenager to match. And it eventually broke him.

Paim, now 35, told The Sun that he was “better than Cristiano” but didn’t work the same as the great man. He said: “I started earning lots of money and had fame way earlier. That led me to a different path, that's why I'm not among them and I don't deserve it.

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“I was born with talent. As I was earning lots of money, I got the illusion I didn't need the effort. When I was 13, my monthly wage was €19,000 plus a €150,000 bonus per year. It was always going up. It was too fast."

Paim revealed how he would naively blow his earnings on cars and partying. He added: “I bought all kinds of cars. Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porsches, Audis because it was my dream as a child and I had no one telling me it wasn't right. The worst investment you can make is cars. But my head couldn't think that way and no one taught me better.

“I started drinking when I was 18 or 19 then started going to parties. It became a routine, more partying, more and more things. I got to know a different lifestyle. As a footballer, I performed the same. I was scoring, playing well in games but after that, I was partying and making bad decisions.”

Upon joining United in 2003, Ronaldo famously said: "If you think I'm good, wait until you see Fabio Paim." Yet despite being held in such high esteem, Paim never broke into the Sporting first team and spent four months on loan at Chelsea in the 2008/09 season but didn’t come close to the first-team.

The sorry tale of Paim instead saw him embark on a journeyman’s career, chasing the cash to keep up his lavish lifestyle, and eventually took him to jail as opposed to the Bernabeu, unlike his superstar compatriot. Paim was arrested in 2019 and put in prison for a year on suspicion of drug trafficking. He was later acquitted when the case collapsed.

The former wonderkid attempted to continue his playing career in Poland’s third-tier before realising he must use his experiences to help others. Paim now travels around schools, universities and football clubs in Portugal giving talks and presentations.

Paim’s 11-year-old son Jaden is currently treading his old man’s path in the Sporting academy, but he said there’s no pressure on his son to hit the heights that he was once destined to reach. Saying he'd be happy if he turned out to be half the player he was.

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