WATCH: Phil Babb on the time he gave Cristiano Ronaldo the "forearm chop" in training at Sporting Lisbon

Ex-Ireland defender spent two years in Portugal

Sporting Lisbon, Phil Babb

Former Liverpool, Coventry City and Tranmere Rovers centre back Phil Babb, now with Sporting Lisbon, in the Estadio Jose Alvalade. Picture by Matthew Ashton EMPICS Sport

From 2000 to 2002, former Ireland defender Phil Babb did something not a huge deal of Irish players embark on: a playing career on the continent. 

After leaving Liverpool, the 45-year-old signed for Portuguese giants Sporting Clube de Portugal, colloquially known as Sporting Lisbon.

That period at the turn of the Millennium, coincided with Cristiano Ronaldo's ascension from the Sporting youth ranks to the first team.

The Real Madrid winger had moved from his native Madeira to the Portuguese capital in 1997 and by the time Babb arrived, he was 15.

For Manchester United supporters of a certain vintage, they will remember Ronaldo was fond of a step-over in his early days and that once led to Babb hitting out at him in training.

It's an anecdote the former USA 94 squad member shared on Sky Sports show The Fantasy Football Club.

"When [Ronaldo] first came into the dressing room the first time, he was really skinny then and he had this big mop of hair. A bit like Steve McManaman back then," he said.

"And so we're doing a training session, it's set up as a back-four and it's attack versus defence. So this little kid runs at me. He steps over twice, three times, goes past me, sticks it in the top bin.

"All the lads are like that 'Babbsy he's had you off' and all that, in Portuguese which I won't try and replicate. So the next time, he's coming at me: step over one way, step over the next, he shoots past me - so I forearm chop him. I knock him out.

"So Ronaldo's on the floor, and I'm like 'nunca mais' - Portuguese for 'never more' or something like that. He's looking at me and he doesn't know what has happened. The training ground's gone quiet."

Given how single-minded Ronaldo has proven in an outstanding career for club and country, Babb then joked: "I've had a massive influence on his career."