Cristiano Ronaldo is, on current form, undisputedly Real Madrid’s best player. Not only has the Portuguese scored 23 of his side’s 48 goals in this season’s La Liga, but his quality, hard work and will to win have made him a fans’ favourite for Los Blancos and set the benchmark for his team-mates to follow.
Set to turn 26 on 5 February 2011 and now a much more mature figure both on the field and in his dealings with the media, the former Manchester United and Sporting star spoke to FIFA.com about, among other topics, his sparkling displays for Real, their current form and coach Jose Mourinho.
With his burning ambition and insatiable hunger for goals, Ronaldo never stops working on his game or striving for football’s biggest prizes. Yet given his dazzling record in front of goal, does he feel he may have reached his peak?
“I’ve got the same attitude I’ve always had,” said the player from the island of Madeira. “My team-mates are in good form and I’m feeling really confident. The goals are flowing because the team’s playing well. I just want to keep this form going, but without setting myself any targets because there are still a lot of games left. I’ve still got plenty to offer in all the competitions we’re involved in.”
And though he will not be drawn on personal goals, 'CR7' was frank when it came to his club’s aims for 2011. “Real Madrid must not go two years without winning anything," he declared. "Yes, I’m a standard bearer for the club but no more than any of the other players. We’re a team and we have to play and think like a team. You can’t think in an individual way. I’m hopeful that this year we’re going to win major honours.”
One of the main factors behind the attacker's faith in his team is coach Mourinho. Much like Ronaldo, opinions of ‘The Special One’ vary wildly, yet among his current and former charges feelings of affection, respect and admiration are universal.
“He’s a coach with a very special kind of charisma," explained Ronaldo. "I think he’s the best around at the moment. The titles he’s won speak for themselves. He’s won silverware at every team he’s been at, which is something you only achieve if you’re a born winner.
"It’s very exciting and motivating to be working with him. I didn’t know his methodology before but now I’m amazed at how good he is. I’m honoured and proud to be working with him, I hope to keep growing as a player and a person alongside him, and that we win a lot of titles together. He manages to get the maximum, 100 per cent, out of every player. That’s his greatest asset and it is inevitably reflected out on the pitch.”
Nor did the 2008 FIFA World Player neglect to mention the influence that Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson had on his transformation from raw youngster to world-beater. “I learned so much with Ferguson," said the Portugal captain. "He’s like a footballing father figure to me. He’s a great man, a great friend and someone who’s very close to my heart.”
Able to operate on either flank, or centrally in midfield or attack, Ronaldo arguably wreaks the most havoc in a more advanced position. “We lost our striker Gonzalo Higuain (the Argentinian is currently recovering from an operation on a slipped disc), but the good news is that Kaka’s fit again," he said. "He’s on form, is confident and is ready to help the team.
“Will I have to play as a centre-forward? I’ll play wherever the coach thinks is the best position for me. I’m not used to playing as a No9, but if I need to do so that’s fine with me. The gaffer knows better than anyone who should play and where.”