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Cristiano Ronaldo: “Juventus? As a group, it is better than Real Madrid”



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La Gazzetta dello Sport Interview with Cristiano Ronaldo by Luca Bianchin on 10 December 2018. Translated from the Italian by Steve Amoia for Sportslens.

Luca Bianchin (@lucabianchin7) of the Milan sports daily, La Gazzetta dello Sport, conducted a wide-ranging interview with the surprise summer signing of the Old Lady, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Let’s take a much longer look at this intriguing, informative and provocative discussion between two top players at their respective crafts.

Luca Bianchin (LB):

Cristiano Ronaldo comes into the room and imposes his physical presence. He is wearing a simple white sweater and speaks about football as all of us do from dawn to dusk.

But his personality is different. His body was designed to play football, a cannon of reference in the modern era, and his voice is always sure, almost set.

Cristiano has a great deal of self-confidence and has worked to be the best since he was a young child. He is not afraid to take on the world, to put himself a small step above Messi (Lionel), perhaps above Cruyff (Johan), Maradona (Diego), Pelé and all the two-legged men who tried to play with a ball on this planet.

For Allegri (Massimiliano), Chiellini (Giorgio) and all of Juve’s fans, there is good news – the man himself believes that he is not finished, he challenges Messi to come play in Italy, and thinks there are still precious objects to be risen to the heavens, to thank a God for whom he believes in with blind faith.

(LB): From the 10th of July to the 10th of December, five months have passed since the announcement of your transfer to Juventus. After over 150 days, how does Juventus as a club, the city of Torino, and Italy as a country, respectively, seem to you?

Cristiano Ronaldo (CR7): I am very happy to be here. The city is very pleasant, the supporters are very kind and Juventus is a fantastic club with an amazing organizational structure. The players are humble here and work a great deal. Yes, my impression, up until this point, is a fantastic one.

LB: Are there players who impress you more than others?

CR7: It’s not proper to cite only a few, but I can say that this is the best group that I have ever played with. Here we are a team. Elsewhere, someone may feel greater than others. However, here, on the other hand, everyone is in the same boat: They are humble and want to win.

If Dybala (Paulo) or Mandzukic (Mario) don’t score, you still see them happy and smiling. For me, this is a beautiful thing, and I am able to perceive the difference. They are also humble at Real Madrid, but here? I feel that they are more humble. It is very different than Real Madrid. This is more like a family.

LB: In February, you may risk a match-up with Real Madrid in the knockout round of the UEFA Champions League. If you were able to choose… Yes or no?

CR7: For me, it’s all the same. The past is the past. Now, I want to win for Juve. I must defend these colours and the rest doesn’t count. If I would play against Real Madrid, I would look to give my utmost.

LB: Every once in a while, there is talk about Marcelo, Isco and other former teammates coming to Juventus. Would it be nice to have a few of them here?

CR7: I see that you write about James (Rodriguez), Bale (Gareth), and Asensio (Marco) but I’m going to be honest. Juventus doesn’t have any need for other players. You ought to speak with the club President (Andrea Agnelli). I don’t know about the future. Marcelo is powerful. We open our doors to good players and Marcelo is one of those.

LB: Was there a time when the choice of Juventus turned out to be the best choice?

CR7: I had various options. I will not say which ones but I had them. I thought that Juve was a stable club, it has history, has played in two of the last Champions League finals, and had won the Serie A title seven times on the trot. I thought of what I experienced when I played here: The atmosphere. There were small details that made a great difference. The stability, the approach of the club President, and the fans. Now, I am 100 percent certain that it was the best option.

LB: What are the main differences between Juventus, Manchester United and Real Madrid?

CR7: The mentality overall in Italy is different. Here, teams worry more about defending than attacking. And even the organization is different just as the mentality. In Spain, there is more of a relaxed feeling. Here, you are more concentrated, serious, and work harder.

LB: Allegri (Massimiliano) on the other hand, at which level is he with respect to other managers that you have had?

CR7: It’s hard to say. I have only worked with him a short time. However, what I can say is that he is very professional, serious, an excellent manager, and a very entertaining type of man. One of his best qualities is that he speaks directly. He gives out names. It doesn’t happen that he says something and people ask themselves ‘who is he referring to?’

One time, he said to one of us: ‘Don’t dribble. Your job is to run and pass.’ He is very honest. You begin to think, ‘Oh, he can’t say this,’ but he does say it. And then he smiles, hugs you, he’s very intelligent, professional and entertaining all at the same time.

LB: At the end of training sessions, there are organised competitions that you bet on. Are these done also with Mister Allegri?

CR7: No, never (with Allegri). I do these types of games with Dybala (Paulo), Mandzukic (Mario) and Khedira (Sami). And in 99 percent of the cases, I win. Perhaps it is some euro or a bottle of wine. I have a collection with three bottles and between 200 to 300 euro in the changing room.

Translator’s Note: Massimiliano Allegri is known to enjoy shooting baskets and partaking in other games with his players. When asked what he missed most about Paul Pogba, he joked, “Playing basketball with Paul.”

LB: Have you won the other challenge, the eternal one, with Messi (Lionel)?

CR7: This is not a competition between Messi (Lionel) and me. I do my work. I have had success at every club and this is the most important thing. I don’t like when they compare me to others. It’s not proper. The numbers speak for themselves. If you take a look at the statistics, you will see for yourself.

I have tried to be successful with all of my club teams and with the national team. I don’t have to demonstrate anything. I have also changed my lifestyle. I came out of my comfort zone. I accepted this new challenge and everything has gone well. I believed in myself and proved to people that I am still an incredible footballer.

LB: Isn’t it now, paradoxically, that CR7 misses Lionel Messi a little?

CR7: No, perhaps he misses me… I have played in England, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and with the Portuguese national team. While he has always been in Spain. Perhaps he needs me more… Life is a challenge for me. I like, and it pleases me, to make people happy. I would like if he (Messi) came to play in Italy one day. Do as I have: Accept the challenge. But, if he is happy there (Spain), I respect that. He is a fantastic player, a great guy but here, I don’t miss anything. This is my new life and I’m happy.

LB: In this new life, is it possible to win a Champions League, or perhaps more than one?

CR7: This is not an individual sport. I am certain of my potential; however, the sport remains a collective one. I always say that the Champions League can’t be an obsession. You need to think about it with calmness.

LB: Was it that way also in Madrid?

CR7: At Real Madrid, many years had passed without winning the Champions League. And ‘La Decima’ was a massive obsession. On the other hand, the time which you can win it is when you relax mentally. Is the Champions League a dream? Yes, we all want it, but we have to get there step by step. For example, look at the game with Manchester United. If it had been a quarter-final, we would have gone out. A little bit of luck, the right time, and the details, are needed.

Translator’s Note: La Decima is the Spanish word for “the tenth.” In this example, the tenth triumph of Real Madrid in the European Cup/UEFA Champions League.

LB: At the end of this week is the derby with Torino. What type of impression do you have of this game after being here for a few months?

CR7: One of the training ground workers told me this morning: ‘Please, beat Torino, otherwise my grandmother…’ I have realized that Juventus supporters refuse to lose two games: The one versus Internazionale and the one versus Torino. A derby is always great and we must win.

LB: Let’s talk about Cristiano as a footballer and as a person. In what areas do you still need to improve?

CR7: On the pitch, I look to do everything. If you don’t train, you lose your touch. Here at Juve, I am learning different things in terms of physicality, emotional aspects, and mentality. For example, I’m still acclimating to Mandzukic (Mario), to Dybala (Paulo), to Douglas Costa, and to others.

LB: In Italy, we have an image of Ronaldo as the perfect footballer and one never speaks about defects. What are yours, on the pitch and off of it?

CR7: It’s difficult. On the pitch, I always look to improve my physical form. To learn how to do the right thing. The other day, I had a pain in my back because I had lifted so many weights. They told me, ‘Try this exercise,’ and the pain went away. I said to myself, ‘Hey, I know my body quite well, he advised an exercise, and it worked.’ It means that you can always get better.

LB: And away from the pitch?

CR7: Nobody is perfect. With me, perhaps, it has happened with patience. Six or seven years ago, I wasn’t very patient. But now I have improved. Defects? Well, I don’t know, I surely have them but… Perhaps I’m getting better with age.

LB: When did Cristiano Ronaldo understand to be Cristiano Ronaldo?

CR7: At times, my friends and family tell me: ‘Hey, do you know that you are Cristiano Ronaldo? You can’t do this.’ Every once in awhile I forget it, but it’s a good thing. If I thought that I have won everything, to have money and success, I would be lazy and would not have worked so hard. I prefer not to know. At times, it’s better to forget being Cristiano.

LB: By the way, speaking of family, what type of relationship do you have with children, the younger fans?

CR7: I look to be kind with everyone but at times, it is hard. Above all, in Italy. People at times see me at a traffic light, and if they recognize me, they stop the car and come take a photo. I’m not the best person in the world; however, I try to be respectful. Above all with children. Children are special and innocent.

LB: Do Cristianinho, Eva, Mateo and Alana Martina know that their father is so famous?

CR7: Cristiano Jr. knows it, he plays in Juve’s youth ranks, he’s aware of the pressure and likes it. He knows that his father is a star and is happy. At times he asks me, ‘Can I bring two Italian friends home?’ And I tell him yes, and he says, ‘But you have to be there because they want to take a picture.’ All of this is part of my journey as a father. Cristianinho wants to be like I am. The others are still too young but soon enough they will feel this pressure.

LB: Italian children at times ask what does Ronaldo eat and what does he do to be so strong. What can you respond to that?

CR7: I like to eat healthfully and to avoid sweets. I don’t drink alcohol and believe that there are three important things: Sleep, eating, and training well.

LB: From the time you were a child to now as an adult, what has been the worst moment of your life?

CR7: When my father died in 2005. Now he is happy, he is in heaven, and he sees everything. It was hard but life is like this.

LB: And those voices about marriage. Are they true or false?

CR7: Not yet, but now I’ll explain everything. I go every week to church. Every week. I am Catholic and I go to thank God for what he gives me. I don’t ask for anything; thanks to God, I have everything. Simply, I thank him for protecting my family and friends. I change churches every week because in Turin, you can choose since there are so many. A paparazzo saw me that time (in church) and thought that I had gotten married. I don’t know if it will happen in the future, but now, it is not in my plans.

LB: The last question for the latest delusion: The Ballon d’Or. How important is it?

CR7: I think I deserve it every year. I work for that; however, if I don’t win, it’s not the end of the world. I respect the decision. I did everything on the pitch to win it. The numbers don’t lie but don’t think that I am less happier if I don’t win.

I have fantastic friends and I have a family. I play in one of the best clubs. Do you think that I go home and start to cry? Surely, I’m gutted but life goes on and I will still work hard. Therefore, congratulations to Modric (Luka). He deserves it. But next year, we’ll see each other again and I’ll do everything to still be there. Understood?

Italian source: Bianchin, Luca, La Gazzetta dello Sport; “Ronaldo? La Juventus? Come gruppo è meglio di Real Madrid” (Ronaldo? Juventus? As a group it is better than Real Madrid); 10/12/2018.

Steve Amoia is a freelance writer and translator based in Washington, D.C. He is the publisher of World Football Commentaries since 2006 and published The Soccer Translator from 2008 to 2015. He has also contributed to Beyond The Pitch, Keeper Skool, and Soccerlens, respectively.