Professional athletes do attention-worthy things all the time. Take "LeBron Watch '18"--the Decision 2.0 that had every basketball fan watching and guessing.

The biggest star in the biggest game in the world just trumped them all, though. Cristiano Ronaldo just announced he is leaving Real Madrid where he won two La Liga and four Champions League titles (among numerous other accolades) in nine seasons to play for Juventus of Italy's Serie A.

I suppose I could make this story about the incredible money exchanging hands here. Juventus paid a whopping $117 million in transfer fees for the right to pay the global superstar over $140 million in salary over four years. 

For comparison, I signed with my first company for a golf shirt with the corporate logo on it.

But the quieter story buried within is how Ronaldo handled himself upon the news, which had to be utterly heartbreaking for millions of Real Madrid fans. You don't have to know much about the sport to be able to picture the anguish.

Which is why the letter that Ronaldo wrote to his fans, published on the Real Madrid fan site (here in English), is so well done. Here's the letter (edited a bit for length):

These years at Real Madrid and in this city of Real Madrid have quite possibly been the happiest years of my life. I only have feelings of great gratitude to this club, to the fans and to the city. I can only give thanks to all of them for the love and affection that I have received.

However, I feel that the time has come to begin a new stage of my life and that is why I have asked the club to accept my transfer. I feel it this way and I am asking everyone, and especially my fans, to please understand me.

These have been nine of the most absolutely marvelous years. These have been nine unique years. This for me has been a very emotional time, full of deliberating, although difficult because Real Madrid is at a very demanding and high level but I know very well that I will never forget that here I have enjoyed football in a unique way

I have had fabulous teammates, both on the field and in the dressing room. I have felt the warmth of an incredible fan base and together we have conquered three straight Champions Leagues titles and four Champions League titles over five years. And together with them in addition, on an individual level, I have had the satisfaction of having won four Ballons d'Or and three Golden Boots, all during my tenure at this most immense and extraordinary club.

Real Madrid has won my heart and that of my family and it is because of that, now more than ever, I would like to say thank you. Thank you to the club, to the President, to the directors, to my teammates, to all the staff, the doctors, the physios and all the incredible people who work there in each of their capacities and who pay tireless attention to every little detail.

Infinite thanks once more to our supporters and thanks also to Spanish football. During these nine exciting years I have come up against great players. My respect and recognition to all of them.

I have thought a lot and I know that the moment has come for a new cycle. I am leaving but I will always feel that this jersey, this badge and the Santiago Bernabéu are mine, no matter where I am.

Here's why his approach is so smart

Stories were rampant that Ronaldo is leaving because of a rift with Real Madrid's president and because he didn't feel properly respected and loved despite all his accomplishments. But he took the high road and didn't mix the fans into all the drama. He just gave a clearly heartfelt, well-articulated thank you to fans. 

He was careful to thank not just the obvious suspects--his teammates and club owners. He also thanked the entire staff at Real Madrid, the doctors, the physios, and the people who worked the little details behind the scenes.

I can't remember the last time I saw such a huge star literally remember to thank all the little people.

It's a lesson every leader should keep in mind. No matter how big and important you become, there's a host of people supporting you every step of the way. Remember to share the appreciation and limelight with them--the everyday heroes.

While Real Madrid may have just lost one of their greatest heroes, the statesman left the building with the grace and appreciation that his fans deserved.

Published on: Jul 11, 2018
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