AS fan mail goes, schoolgirl Kristen Barwick has topped the lot.
For not only has her footballing heart-throb Cristiano Ronaldo seen the 14-year-old’s portrait of him, but he was so impressed that he displayed it in his hometown museum.
And when Kristen went to visit, the museum arranged for the Real Madrid star to sign the drawing and return it to the Morpeth artist, along with a signed shirt.
“It’s amazing,” she said.
“I’ve told all my friends about it. It’s mainly the boys who are interested – they think it’s really good.”
The extraordinary events unfolded after the King Edward VI School pupil sent the drawing to Ronaldo, her favourite player, in 2012.
As a keen artist and football fan, she has done the same for several other players, including Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany and Robin Van Persie. But the Sunderland fan heard nothing more about the Ronaldo piece and almost forgot about it.
Then in January, she received a message from a stranger on social media site Twitter, asking if she was the person whose drawing was on display in Ronaldo’s newly-opened museum, Museu CR7, in Funchal, Madeira. Kristen had written her Twitter name on the picture, but her family were naturally suspicious.
Mum Karen said: “It just all seemed a bit incredulous.
“Kristen sent the picture off in late 2012 and to a large extent we had forgotten about it because she is a prolific writer to football clubs. We just thought it had gone from Morpeth to Real Madrid and been lost among the hundreds of thousands of other letters Ronaldo receives. What were the chances of him even seeing it?
“Kristen was contacted through Twitter, which also set alarm bells ringing so we decided we needed to find out more.”
Fortunately, Mrs Barwick’s niece is engaged to a Portuguese speaker, who rang the tourist board in Madeira to check it out.
The family were stunned when they were told that Kristen’s drawing was indeed on display, and they were given the details of museum manager Nuno Mendes.
“We contacted Nuno and he asked when we were coming out to see the picture,” said Mrs Barwick.
“It was incredible. He said 10,000 people had seen it already.
“We knew it was really special for Kristen so we had to see it. If we waited until the summer it might have been moved so we went at half-term.”
Mr Mendes arranged a private tour of the museum, which includes every trophy Ronaldo has won, as well as his Fifa Ballon d’Or awards, match balls and golden boots, but the family didn’t have to look far to see Kristen’s exhibit.
“It was the first thing you saw when you walked through the door,” said Mrs Barwick.
“There was a section for fanmail from all around the world and it was right there.”
There were more surprises to come.
“Mr Mendes said they should do something special so he suggested sending the drawing to Ronaldo in Madrid, getting him to sign it and send it back to Kristen,” said Mrs Barwick.
“She was a apprehensive in case it got lost, but before we left, Mr Mendes told us he had spoken to Ronaldo’s brother Hugo, who was going to see Ronaldo, and he would take the picture personally and bring it back before we came home. It was amazing.
“Kristen was still unsure about bringing it home because it wouldn’t be on display, but to have her drawing signed by the man himself is unbelievable.”
And the teenager is already making plans to cover the museum’s loss.
“I’m just finishing a new drawing to send off to the museum to replace it,” she said.