The Portugal great has explained how he watched those at Old Trafford to become a superstar and how he has stayed at the top of the game for 15 years
Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo has revealed the secret to the longevity of his career, stating that a willingness to learn and adapt has been just as important as talent in his exploits.
At 34 years old, the Portugal international forward shows little sign of letting up his standards in what has been an extraordinary career, in which he has won five Ballons d’Or, scored 700 top-level goals and has netted an incredible raft of trophies, including five Champions League crowns.
Ronaldo’s journey began at Sporting CP, but it was at Manchester United where he really made his name – and he says that he would have been “an imbecile” if he failed to improve with the type of star around Old Trafford when he moved there.
Asked by France Football how he became such a prolific scorer while under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson, he replied: “By using my brain. If you’ve got a little intelligence, you look and take example from those who are doing things better than you.
“That’s what I did when I was in Manchester with Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Rio Ferdinand… if you don’t learn from guys like that, you’re an imbecile.
“The goal isn’t to imitate but to take aspects from those who are the best and adapt it to your own personality. That’s what I did. I had some talent and I watched them.
“Sir Alex Ferguson also taught me a lot, and I realised I had the potential to score, not only dribble and pass. I started to think of being a complete soccer professional without any weakness. I could score with my right foot, my left foot and my head. I’m strong and I’m quick.
“If you have this and a real ethic and a good lifestyle, you can still do it at 34-and-a-half.”
Ronaldo added that the right mentality has been absolutely essential to reach – and stay – at the top, giving an example of his ethic.
“We faced Lokomotiv Moscow, who refused to play and parked the bus in front of their goal,” he said, reflecting back on the recent Champions League match Juve played against the Russians.
“It was hard to score. I didn’t do it and I was frustrated at the end. That’s normal. The most important thing has been that the team wins.
“But when I went back to the dressing room, I chilled out. After the match, I went to dinner with friends. I got home at four in the morning. I had a glass of iced water before bed. I slept until 10 then I had my breakfast.
“At 11, I went to work in the gym. If you don’t have that discipline every day, you can’t stay at the top for 15 years.”
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Ronaldo, who also spoke of the importance of yoga and meditation in his life, revealed that his horizons have broadened over the years and he now takes example from those who have enjoyed success in other sports deep into their 30s, including former NBA star Michael Jordan.
“I’ve learned from him and all those who achieved excellence,” he said. “And I don’t just mean in sports.
“I like to read about the Noble Prize, on what people have invented, generated, created, developed. The Nobel Prize for people like that, it’s like winning the Ballon d’Or for me,” he said. “I like to know why they’ve invented something and how they did it. It’s important and it’s going to help me become even better.”