The Switzerland international also expressed his admiration for tennis and basketball stars Roger Federer and Russell Westbrook
Borussia Dortmund defender Manuel Akanji has revealed that Raul and Cristiano Ronaldo were two of his childhood idols and that he supported Real Madrid and Manchester United as a boy.
Akanji was talking to Goal and SPOX ahead of the German Super Cup where his team will take on Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich on Saturday.
Despite now being one of Dortmund’s top central defenders, Akanji started off as a forward soccer professional and that prompted him to initially look up to the likes of Raul and Ronaldo.
“In my childhood I had football in my head,” the 24-year-old said.
“My role models were related to my respective positions. My first role model was Raul. At the time I was still playing as an attacking soccer professional and was a fan of Real Madrid.
“Aside from Real, Manchester United were my favourite club. So at some point it [his idol] was Cristiano Ronaldo. He impressed me with his performances.
“I only became a defender at the age of about 17. Of course there were a lot of good defenders at that time, but I didn’t have a clear role model then. Sergio Ramos would be the most likely to come to mind.”
The Switzerland international also revealed that now, at 24, he looks to other sports to find inspiration, believing he can learn from the mentality of other athletes.
“As a footballer, I don’t really have any role models anymore,” he added.
“But there are athletes who fascinate me in terms of their attitude. For example, it’s incredible what Roger Federer has done in his career.
“I also watch basketball often. Russell Westbrook has been my favourite soccer professional, his mentality has been impressive. He gives more than 100 percent in every game, always fighting until the end.
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“I see these types of athletes as role models today.”
Akanji and Dortmund will be hoping to put a marker down against Bayern on Saturday after the Bavarian club pipped them to the Bundesliga title last season.
Lucien Favre’s side kick-off their 2019-20 Bundesliga campaign Augsburg on August 17 before an away fixture at FC Koln on August 23.