FABIO PAIM was supposed to become the best footballer in the world.
He is the only player Cristiano Ronaldo has publicly stated is better than him.
And he earned an incredible £327 000 aged just 13 as fans and players travelled across Portugal to watch him.
But while his childhood friend became one of football’s GOATs, Paim’s career spiralled into obscurity due to the fame, money and partying lifestyle.
Then it hit rock bottom when Paim spent a year in the infamous Caxias prison and literally watched Ronaldo training with Portugal through the window.
The winger was snapped up by Sporting’s academy at eight, leaving home to live in Lisbon and the hype quickly gained momentum.
Paim’s scintillating talent seemed destined to propel him to greatness – and exceed fellow Sporting academy prodigy Ronaldo who is three years older.
So much so that when Ronaldo signed for Manchester United in 2003, he said: “If you think I’m good, wait until you see Fabio Paim.”
But just how good was Paim? And was he really better than Ronaldo?
Speaking to SunSport where he resides in the Algarve, Paim said: “I was really special. I must be humble, but this is the truth.
“Unfortunately back then there was not Instagram or Facebook, nothing was recorded like nowadays, but I strongly and honestly believe that until today there was no other like me with the same quality I had.
“Cristiano, for all his effort and hard work, went to a level he deserves.
“But when I was playing, if I had the same effort and commitment, I would be better than him.
“If I speak about technique, I was better. I was a small Ronaldinho. But as we can see, it’s not the technique that leads us to wherever.
“But yes at that time I was better than Cristiano. I believe he should give me one of his Ballons d’Or!”
Asked if technically he would have been the world’s best and won the Ballon d’Or, Paim replied: “Yes, no doubt.”
Ronaldo amassed countless trophies, including leading Portugal to Euro 2016 glory, but Paim did not fulfil his dream of making a single competitive first-team appearance for Sporting.
The Portuguese youth international joined Chelsea on loan in 2008.
While compatriots, including Deco and Ricardo Carvalho were first-team stars, the then-20-year-old lived alone and “didn’t enjoy” his year in London despite earning nearly £50 000 per month plus Sporting’s £130 000 annual bonus in Brendan Rodgers and Paul Clement’s reserves. – The Sun.