(This interview with Cristiano Ronaldo was made by the journalist Nuno Perestrelo and appeared in the Portuguese sports daily A Bola (28/08/14). On any copyright issues, please contact footballportugal.)
- A Bola: Two months after the World Cup, we have changes in the [Portuguese Football] Federation: Paulo Bento is now the coordinator of the technical department and there are changes in the medical department. As captain of the team, whatís your view on the changes?
- Cristiano Ronaldo: Changes are a part of life. Weíre all guilty Ė from the players to the coaches and including the medical staff. It was up to the [FPF] president [Fernando Gomes] to decide on the changes that were important. Heís the president, but I donít believe the medical staff were to blame for the SeleÁ„oís incompetence. Dr Henrique Jones [replaced as the SeleÁ„oís resident doctor] was excellent Ė he was at the FPF for many years. Changes have to be made; there are cycles for players, coaches and directors, too, and in this sense Dr. Josť Carlos Noronha [Jonesí replacement] brings added value and heís a friend. If the president thought it was a good change and an improvement, we have to support him. Heís excellent Ö
- Fernando Gomes also said publicly that the SeleÁ„o lacked competence at the World Cup. Do you agree?
- Yes, there was a lack of competence because we didnít get past the group stage. Itís not a lie.
- Was it really difficult to breathe in Manaus and Salvador?
- On that point, you have to say that all the teams went through the same Ė we werenít the only ones.
- You played at Euro 2008 with pains in your foot, you played now at the World Cup when the doctors advised you to stop for a while. But youíre often criticized when things donít go right for the team. Do you feel that your spirit of sacrifice for the team isnít understood?
- Things are conquered over time, if people are intelligent. Things improve and take their time. I think itís normal that people are critical Ė not only the Portuguese but the Spanish, too Ė all people are critical. You have to deal with that because success isnít built in two days Ė itís achieved over 12, 13, 15 years of career.
- At times of the greatest frustration, has it ever occurred to you to say ďenoughĒ and give up the SeleÁ„o?
- No, itís not the moment for that. As Iíve said before: there are no eternal careers. One day Iíll finish and I hope Iíll leave through the big gate [a bullfighting reference]. But this isnít the moment to think about that. Anyway, there are always injustices; it seems that we always have to prove that weíre better than the others Ė not only in the SeleÁ„o but also in the club. We have to know how to deal with that.
- Coming up are the SeleÁ„oís first qualifying games for Euro 2016 and Hugo Almeida and Hťlder Postiga arenít working [note: neither was called up for the opener v Albania]. Do you think you might play at centre-forward at this time, or at some time in the future?
- At certain moments, if the coach wants to use me there, I donít say no. At my club and for the SeleÁ„o, Iím always ready to help. Itís not a position that Iím totally fond of, but if I have to play there, I will, no problem. As everyone knows, if Iíve played in the same position for so many years, why change? I repeat: if I have to play there Ö but itís not my favourite position.
- Last year, after your spectacular season came the physical problems. We had the impression that you forced yourself too much to play in the final of the Champions League [CL] in Lisbon and in the World Cup. Do you agree?
- Of course, yes. If Iíd rested, Iíd be fine now, but itís not easy to do after the season we had, in which things went well on a personal level. I didnít want to miss the CL final and then the World Cup. It was obvious that I wasnít in the best condition, I forced it, but it all came good on a club level. We won the CL, the tenth, a trophy we were all waiting for, and I got a goal in the final. In the SeleÁ„o it was more complicated Ė we didnít get past the group stage. Things didnít go well Ė you canít always be at the top. We have to put it down to experience, but I donít regret what I did. I fought for the colours of my country and Real Madrid, who pay my wages.
- During that time, what hurt more: your knee or your head for the things you heard?
- My head, without a doubt [laughs].
- At one point, doctors advised you to stop. Do you feel that at that point you risked more than you should have, or that you could have put your career at risk?
- Yes, obviously. In life you donít win anything without making sacrifices and sometimes you have to take risks. In certain circumstances I could have dealt with things better, but being involved in great competitions like the CL and the World Cup itís more difficult. Things had gone well, I was going to beat the CL goal-scoring record Ö in my holidays I rested for a whole month, I did nothing apart from treatment and looking after my body. Sometimes I can take my body to the limit, but a top athlete is just like that.
- Your physical condition continues to be news. How do you feel now?
- I feel better. I feel that things have gone well. The pre-season had high and low points; itís normal that Real Madridís tour Ė with journeys, tiredness, jet-lag Ė doesnít let you work well. The other week went well, but I need a few more days to get to the highest level [of fitness]. Iíll get there soon.
- For the goals you scored, for the victory in the CL, for all you achieved in 2013/14, do you feel that you deserve the UEFA award for best player in Europe more than the other candidates?
- Individual awards are the result of collective success. I had a fantastic season from the point of view of the collective. We won the CL, the Spanish Cup, and the Supercup. I won individual trophies, too. An individual trophy is always important ad of course Iíd love to win this award. However, I think all three of us have a chance.
- Would it surprise you to lose to Neuer or Robben, who you beat in the head-to-head?
- Nothing surprises me in football. Iíve seen so many things happen. Obviously Iím confident because I know that I did things well from an individual and collective point of view. Itís the journalists who vote and they know better than anyone what each of us has done. Iím confident that Iím going to win, of course.
[note: CR did indeed win the UEFA award for best player in Europe, presented at the draw for the CL group stage on 28 august 2014.]
- In 2014 you won the CL, the Spanish Cup, the Spanish and European Supercups, you were the top goal-scorer, you won the Golden Ball for the previous season, the Golden Boot, you broke the record for goals in the CL Ö was it your best ever season?
- For all the collective and individual trophies, it could be, yes. However, it doesnít surprise me because over the last six or seven years, Iíve kept at the same level. The main difference is probably that on a collective level weíve won important trophies. On an individual level, itís similar. Maybe Itís the year in which Iíve had more success overall. It was a dream year.
- In 2006, when you were at Manchester United, you told A Bola that you were working to be the best in the world. What are you working towards now?
- Continuing to be the best. Nothingís changed apart from the dates. My thinkingís still the same: I want to be the best in all the competitions Iím involved in.
- You give the idea that youíre a happy man. Is there anything you need to make you feel completely fulfilled.
- No! Iím a person that things have gone well for, thank God. I donít lack anything. I have my health, the familyís fine, my friends are fine Ö so it wouldnít be right to say that Iím sad. My footballing career is at its peak, I feel good and so, Iím a fulfilled person.
- Winning the 10th CL [with Real Madrid] removed some of the pressure, now thereís the pressure to win the 11th. Are you all prepared?
- Whoever has the chance of playing for Real knows the pressure there is. The players feel the pressure and know that itís natural, being in the biggest club in the world. Even so, itís true that the pressure of the 10th was greater than the next one ... for now. We want to win Ė we always have that pressure. Every year we can win, but this year weíre going to be calmer from a psychological point of view.
- With the arrival of Kroos, James and Navas, and the exits of Diego Lopez and Di Maria, is this Real better or worse?
- If itís better or worse, weíll see at the end of the season. You can sign the 40 best players in the world and not make a good team. The players that have arrived are very good, theyíre top class, but weíll have to do the accounts at the end of the year. I have the impression that things are going to go well.
- The relationship between the players and the coach seems good Ö
- Fantastic! The mister [Carlo Ancelotti] has done a phenomenal job. Heís a great coach, a fantastic person.
[on the rivalry between CR and Lionel Messi]
- Comparisons with Messi are normal, theyíre a part of my life. People always compare the best Ė like in Formula 1 they compare Ferrari and Mercedes. Iím totally used to it, not only in all these years at Real but also when I was at Manchester United.
- Weíre not on bad terms, no. Not at all. Weíre colleagues, friends within the profession. Outside the world of football we donít have a relationship for various reasons, as happens with other players. Heís a player who tries to perform to the maximum in his club and his national team and thereís always rivalry, in inverted commas. And thatís good because each makes the other better.
- One day I hope that we can laugh about this rivalry together. This is fun Ė itís something we like to do and that people like. We have to look at it in a positive light because itís something good.
[on Portuguese club football in the coming season]
- I try to follow it as closely as I can. I can see that FC Porto are extremely strong this year, as we saw against Lille [when FCP qualified for the group stage of the CL]. Theyíve made a lot of changes and have a good coach. I also see that Sporting have made some changes and now have a great new asset with the return of Nani, who will refresh the team. Benfica are as they always are. They made some good signings and have a very good coach. I predict a very competitive championship , and although classification is always an unknown, and although of course Iíd like Sporting to be champions Ö may the best team win. But the team thatís got the best reinforcements is FC Porto.
[on Nani, his old teammate at Manchester United]
- Nani knows better than anyone whatís best for him but I have my own opinion [about his move back to Sporting on loan from Manchester United]. I played alongside him for two years and for many years with the SeleÁ„o, but obviously leaving Manchester United for Sporting wasnít a very good move. With all due respect for Sporting, weíre talking about Manchester United, one of the top clubs in the world. Itís a step back for him, but it could be valuable in the future. Nani didnít feel useful at Manchester United, he wasnít happy because he wasnít playing. Going back to his roots to be able to play, to be able to show his talent, and then returning to Manchester more prepared psychologically and physically will be good for him. However, you canít compare Manchester United to Sporting Ė itís one of the top clubs in the world and itís the dream of all players to play there. I hope that this [Naniís return to Sporting] is being done with his eyes on the future, on what he wants to do in the future, so that he can go back to being the top player he was. After all, nobody can be at the top without playing.