Monday 26 August 2019

Complex family, women problems and John O'Shea assistance – 10 talking points from Ronaldo book

Real Madrid's striker Cristiano Ronaldo poses in front of his four Golden Boot trophies during a ceremony in Madrid last month
Real Madrid's striker Cristiano Ronaldo poses in front of his four Golden Boot trophies during a ceremony in Madrid last month

From a (slightly criminal) taste for yoghurt to the truth behind his rivalry with Messi, here are 10 revelations contained in Spanish journalist Guillem Balague's new book Ronaldo.

The young Ronaldo was an actual thief

The authorities at Sporting Lisbon were not overly enamoured with the behaviour of the teenage Ronaldo, who apparently piled up disciplinary offences during his spell at the club's academy. In one incident, according to a club report at the time: "The player Cristiano Ronaldo stole a can of iced tea from a colleague at the training ground and two yoghurts from Mrs Emília. He also deprived player Rui Lopes (who is ill) of his lunch without permission."

Usain Bolt is a critic of his running technique

Ronaldo's speed is one of his greatest assets, but according to the six-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt, he could have been even quicker. "When he is running and reaches top speed he starts to tip over," Bolt explained, after meeting the player in 2009. "If he brought his foot down on the centre of gravity, or even in front of him, it will be much easier. He will be much better and he will go faster for longer."

Ronaldo almost broke Mike Phelan

Apparently the relentlessly driven Ronaldo would visit Manchester United's then-assistant manager Mike Phelan every morning at the club's training ground at Carrington to demand new, more exacting drills to lift him to new heights - with practices that did not meet his expectations dismissed as "s---". "I’ve never gone so long without sleeping," Phelan told friends at the time.

Yes, he really does want to return to United

He may have stockpiled trophies, awards and cash during his time at Real Madrid, but that does not stop Ronaldo from pining for his old employers at Old Trafford. Balague writes that Ronaldo almost returned there in 2013 during a spell when his relations with Real were at a low and that Sir Alex Ferguson "reminds him whenever he can that the door is still open."

John O'Shea sealed Ronaldo's move to United

Manchester United were facing serious competition for Cristiano Ronaldo's signature in 2003 when the club travelled to Lisbon to play a friendly against Sporting. Ronaldo was in the team that faced them, and his performance against the hapless John O'Shea was so destructive, Sir Alex Ferguson insisted they signed him before they boarded the plane. "John O’Shea was sitting there [at half-time] like he needed some oxygen," Rio Ferdinand said. Roy Keane put it more succinctly: "We always joked with Sheasy that he’d sealed the deal by playing like a f— clown."

Psychologists have a theory about his relationship with Bale

One of the more intriguing hypotheses surrounding Ronaldo concerns his view of Gareth Bale, specifically the way he treated him during the Welshman's first season at Real Madrid. Ronaldo's pointed non-reaction to Bale's goals provided Collett with "enough dare to make the following statement: Ronaldo does not think Bale is on his level."

Ronaldo could have joined Manchester City or Barcelona - not Real

After internal politicking and financial worries almost led Real Madrid to pull out of their pre-arranged deal to sign Ronaldo in 2009, there were apparently two parties interested in providing him with a home: Manchester City and Barcelona.

Balague states that the offer from City could have reached €150million, while Barca's stood at €105 million. Eventually, the fear of Barca swiping yet another superstar from under their noses forced Real into a rethink.

Ronaldo is fuelled by his rivalry with Messi

It is claimed that at the height of Ronaldo's rivalry with his bete noir Messi, "You could tell what the Barcelona score had been or whether Messi had played well by watching Ronaldo train."

The pair's history of antagonism is not covered in great detail in Balague's book, but he does quote the former AS Monaco director of football, Tor-Kristian Karlsen, who had dinner with Ronaldo and his agent Jorge Mendes in a restaurant which had the Barcelona v Atlético Madrid match on in the background.

"I’m not going to say exactly what was heard at the table,’ Karlsen noted, after Messi scored two goals to win the game in the second half, "but I certainly got the impression that there was “a bit” of rivalry between the two players."

Ronaldo cries. A lot

Barely a page goes by without Ronaldo breaking down in tears over some perceived slight, injustice or misfortune: being left out of a trip with Sporting Lisbon back to his native Madeira prompts him to "cry down the phone to his mother". A post-match dose of the hairdryer from Sir Alex Ferguson means he "began to cry".

Winning the Ballon d'Or? "He was crying." And when he was playing for his first club Andorinha? "He cried and cried, not just in the dressing room, but also on the pitch if the team was losing. Also when he passed to his team-mates and they failed to score – that made him cry, too."

Women pose a problem

Several pages are devoted to Ronaldo's relationships with women, with Balague advancing the theory that nobody quite measures up to his mother, Dolores. The supermodel Irina Shayk apparently prompts him to "forget his deep-rooted fear of being taken advantage of", but that does not last.

Instead, he prefers to revel in the bachelor lifestyle, as made clear by Marca journalist Sergio Fernández: "One day we were having coffee together, along with Ricardo Carvalho, and a beautiful woman walked past, so [Ronaldo] nudged us and said, 'Check her out” and so on.

Carvalho didn’t look, so Cristiano remarked, “This guy’s like Kaká.'"

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