Cristiano Ronaldo’s rise to the very top of the global game was driven by a relentless desire to be the best says Nicky Butt, with the Portuguese superstar having to be dragged off the training pitch during his early days at Manchester United.
Few could have predicted the skinny teenager lured away from Sporting CP in summer 2003 would go on to become a five-time Ballon d’Or winner and one of the greatest to have ever played the game.
Ronaldo always believed that was possible, and dedicated himself to mastering his craft with a work ethic that stunned his team-mates and left his legendary coach fearing he would be pushed beyond breaking point.
What has been said?
Former United midfielder Butt, who worked alongside an all-time great following his arrival at Old Trafford, has told a new book called ‘Viva Ronaldo’: “Ronaldo was to emerge as a genius but it wasn’t just about his talents that took him right to the top.
“It is often said that certain players worked hard, stayed behind for some extra training or to practise their techniques, but with Cristiano it was total dedication, total commitment, and total hard work.
“He didn’t have a God-given physique, it wasn’t given, he worked hard to achieve it. He actually came to us as a skinny, scrawny young kid, and worked hard to get that physique over many years.
“He had to reach a new level of physical strength because the Premier League demanded it, and he had plenty of opportunity to see at first hand how physical and tough it can be when he was up against, even in training, the likes of Roy Keane and Jaap Stam.
“We would also see him work relentlessly on his free kicks and he would tell us about something he had seen somewhere, and he wanted to perfect it, and he would work again relentlessly until he did. It all went beyond dedication, he was obsessed with football.
“You see it all the time when some players talk about their dedication and how much extra practice they put in.
"Often it is little more than a pretence, maybe a touch more time practicing and then rush off to do something else they are keen on, or can’t wait to go home and have something to eat, but rarely do you find someone totally committed 24/7 to the game, but Cristiano was one of those.
“He never had a girlfriend back then, or seemed that interested in any distractions such as that, he never had a wife and kids to rush back to see or to entertain, he lived alone.
“He was the last to leave the building. In fact, you couldn’t get him off the training pitch as he worked relentlessly on his techniques, as we all walking off he was carrying a bag of balls to work on those techniques.
“We would be having lunch in the canteen or getting ready to go home and you could hear the voice of Sir Alex bellowing across the training fields at two or three o’clock in the afternoon, shouting at Cristiano that it was time to get off the pitch as 'we have a game in two days - enough now!'”
Can Ronaldo star again for Man Utd?
Having left the Red Devils in 2009, Ronaldo is now back at Old Trafford after a stunning switch from Juventus. He is expected to raise standards and put Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side in contention for major silverware, with five goals in as many appearances.
Ronaldo is now 36 but is showing no sign of slowing down and Butt is delighted to have a talismanic figure back in his spiritual home.
The ex-England international added: “He showed loyalty to the club that gave him his big chance. He has returned just at the right time to this club, we’re crying out to regain that old successful winning formula and entertaining football. Make no mistake, he has created an incredible buzz about the place.”
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