Ron’s rise to world class

> Neville pin­points Cristiano rise to the top af­ter he pro­voked con­tro­versy at the 2006 World Cup with his in­fa­mous ‘wink’ af­ter Rooney’s dis­missal <

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS - BY MARK CRITCH­LEY

GARY NEVILLE be­lieves Cristiano Ron­aldo only be­gan to ma­ture into a world class foot­baller af­ter caus­ing con­tro­versy at the 2006 World Cup. The for­mer full­back played with Ron­aldo at Manch­ester Unit­ed­for six years, dur­ing which time his team­mate be­came one of world foot­ball’s elite play­ers.

Neville, how­ever, be­lieves that Ron­aldo started to ful­fil his po­ten­tial fol­low­ing his in­fa­mous ‘wink’ af­ter Wayne Rooney’s send­ing off in Eng­land’s quar­ter­fi­nal de­feat to Por­tu­gal that year.

“Cristiano was very raw when he first came to the club,” Neville told Sky Sports. “He had a lot of grow­ing up to do and like all young play­ers he needed time to de­velop.

“It took a few years for his body to fill out and he needed time to get his decision-mak­ing right but you would ex­pect that from a young player.

“And over two-and-a-half years he be­came a dev­as­tat­ing player, im­prov­ing him­self both phys­i­cally and men­tally.

“For me, it felt like he ma­tured and be­came a man af­ter the 2006 World Cup,” he added. “Af­ter that tour­na­ment he be­came a com­pletely dif­fer­ent player.”

Rooney was shown a red card for stamp­ing on Ri­cardo Car­valho dur­ing the quar­ter­fi­nal in Gelsenkirchen.

Ron­aldo was among a group of Por­tu­gal play­ers who sur­rounded Ho­ra­cio El­i­zondo, the match ref­eree, and de­manded for the Eng­land striker to be dis­missed.

As Rooney left the field, tele­vi­sion cam­eras caught Ron­aldo wink­ing in the di­rec­tion of a fel­low Por­tu­gal player and the im­ages in­censed many Eng­land sup­port­ers watch­ing on at home.

Ron­aldo was re­ceived with hos­til­ity at grounds across the coun­try upon his re­turn to English foot­ball, but Neville, who also played in the 2006 quar­ter­fi­nal, be­lieves this ex­pe­ri­ence co­in­cided with his team­mate tak­ing his game up a level.

“Sud­denly he knew when to pass, where to pass and he knew when and where to run. It all seemed to come to­gether at once.

“That was the time he was get­ting crit­i­cised the most by fans in this coun­try af­ter his fa­mous wink at Wayne Rooney, but I would never crit­i­cise him for that.

“I al­ways felt all was fair in love and war when it comes to the foot­ball pitch. As long as it was le­gal and you were act­ing within the rules of the game, then a player should try to gain all com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tages pos­si­ble to try and win.”

Ron­aldo’s 2006/07 sea­son proved to be his best at Old Traf­ford up to that point, with the young for­ward scor­ing 23 goals and pick­ing up his first Premier League medal un­der Sir Alex Fer­gu­son’s man­age­ment. – The In­de­pen­dent

Ron­aldo (left) and Neville dur­ing their Manch­ester United days

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