Emotional Ronaldo dedicates award to late great Eusebio
Published 14/01/2014 | 02:30
Cristiano Ronaldo confirmed Rio Ferdinand called him in Madrid last summer to try to persuade him to return to Manchester United.
Holding the Ballon d'Or for the world's best player after a tearful ceremony in Zurich, Ronaldo spoke of conversations with his "old friend" at a time when United were considering a bid for the star they sold to Spain in 2009 for £80m.
Ronaldo said after he had beaten Lionel Messi and Franck Ribery in the ballot for the Ballon d'Or: "It was true that Rio spoke to me a lot. Rio is a great friend of mine, we played many years together at Manchester United and we were neighbours when I was there in Manchester.
"He's a fantastic guy and tried to change my mind. I did think about United. They are still in my heart. It's a club where I played for six years and I love that club. I have a lot of friends there and I wish them the best."
Halting Messi's run of four consecutive wins is likely to make Ronaldo feel more settled in Madrid. Anyone who thinks the Ballon d'Or is a hollow prize, meanwhile, should have seen him crying on stage as he collected the golden orb for the first time since 2008, when United won the Champions League in Moscow.
The other winner who needed a hankie to dab his eyes was Pele, who collected the inaugural Prix D'Honneur. Explaining his tearfulness, Pele said: "I was jealous of all of those guys who got the Ballon d'Or, which I couldn't get because I didn't play in Europe."
To see Ronaldo and Pele both overwhelmed offered an insight into the pressure great players place on themselves to reach the pinnacle. And stay there.
In rampaging form throughout 2013, Ronaldo beat Messi without winning a single trophy. Ribery, who won five, could not break the six-year Messi-Ronaldo duopoly.
"Last year was amazing," added Ronaldo. "It was very intense. I scored so many goals, 69 for Real Madrid and helped my national team to go through to the World Cup. It means a lot to me that I won it after Eusebio's passing. I dedicate this award to him and to my team-mates."
Ronaldo tends to wear a mask of detachment, of hostility, sometimes, but this time it fell away to reveal all the frustration that has built up in him at being No 2 to Messi.
He said: "I couldn't contain my tears. It was a unique moment for me to win this trophy. When I heard my name I didn't think anything, a huge emotion came over me and I started to cry."
All-star team for 2013 -- Neuer; Alves, Thiago Silva, Ramos, Lahm; Iniesta, Xavi, Ribery; Ronaldo, Messi, Ibrahimovic.