Work ethic will sus­tain Ron­aldo

Por­tu­gal man­ager San­tos says his cap­tain will con­tinue to per­form at the high­est level for years to come.

The National - News - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - John McAu­ley jm­[email protected]­

DUBAI // Cris­tiano Ron­aldo is a “ge­nius” whose “crazy” work ethic will en­sure he can con­tinue to per­form at the high­est level for some time yet, said Por­tu­gal man­ager Fer­nando San­tos.

The Real Madrid for­ward, cap­tain of his coun­try, has en­joyed a stel­lar 2016, win­ning the Uefa Cham­pi­ons League in May and the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship this sum­mer in France.

It was the first time Por­tu­gal have lifted a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional tro­phy.

Ron­aldo has re­ceived in­di­vid­ual recog­ni­tion, too, for his su­perb year, col­lect­ing a fourth Bal­lon d’Or ti­tle ear­lier this month. On Tues­day night in Dubai he was named Globe Soc­cer’s Player of the Year – also for a fourth time.

De­spite the ac­com­plish­ments and the ac­co­lades, there are con­cerns Ron­aldo’s im­pact is be­gin­ning to wane, es­pe­cially as he ap­proaches his 32nd birthday in Fe­bru­ary.

This sea­son, he has scored 12 times for Real Madrid, a marked de­cline at this stage in sea­sons past.

Speak­ing at the Dubai In­ter­na­tional Sports Con­fer­ence yes­ter­day, when asked about Ron­aldo’s abil­ity to main­tain his out­put, San­tos in­sisted he has lit­tle doubt his star man’s im­pact on the pitch will sus­tain.

“You never know, be­cause Cris­tiano is crazy, he is amaz­ing,” San­tos said. “He has only one fo­cus: win, win, win. And for this he works a lot. Ev­ery day, he has one pro­gramme for him­self.

“He is the best player in the world, but more im­por­tantly, he’s my friend. He’s a ge­nius. To be a ge­nius you need a tal­ent, but you need to work. Be­cause if you have one with­out the other it is im­pos­si­ble to be a ge­nius. “And Cris­tiano is a ge­nius.” San­tos said he has al­ways been im­pressed with Ron­aldo’s ded­i­ca­tion to his pro­fes­sion and in his con­stant de­sire to im­prove. Typ­i­cally, San­tos em­ploys Ron­aldo as the spear­head to his Por­tu­gal side, and he ex­pects the coun­try’s all-time lead­ing goalscorer can re­main as such ir­re­spec­tive of his ad­vanc­ing years.

“Yes, it’s nor­mal,” San­tos said. “31 is not 20, and at 32 or 33 you need to close the area on the pitch, to change lit­tle things.

“For Cris­tiano, the most im­por­tant thing is to un­der­stand this, be­cause he does not un­der­stand what to do for the age.”

Ron­aldo’s con­tri­bu­tion at the Euro 2016 was mixed. He strug­gled ini­tially be­fore scor­ing three goals, in­clud­ing one in the semi-fi­nal vic­tory against Wales.

Mis­for­tune struck in the fi­nal when Ron­aldo was stretched off in­jured af­ter only 25 min­utes, and he was a vis­i­ble and vo­cal pres­ence on the touch­line for the re­main­der of the show­piece at the Stade de France.

Por­tu­gal even­tu­ally de­feated the hosts 1-0 in ex­tra time.

Ron­aldo was later crit­i­cised for per­haps seek­ing to steal the lime­light in the fi­nal. San­tos main­tains it was sim­ply an­other ex­am­ple of the player’s com­mit­ment to the col­lec­tive. “This was fantastic, be­cause it’s proof we have a strong, strong group,” said San­tos, who also praised Ron­aldo’s abil­ity to cope with his su­per­star celebrity. “This is OK. Cris­tiano is a very good guy, a very good per­son, which is very im­por­tant. He is the best player in the world. In the past 10 years he’s won many, many things bothas an in­di­vid­ual and col­lec­tive.

“And then for Por­tu­gal, in the fi­nal phase, Cris­tiano came only for the team. That is fantastic. If you don’t have a good sen­ti­ment, if you don’t have heart, you will never make this.

“Cris­tiano is a very strong cap­tain in my team.”

Chris­tian Liewig / Sipa

AP Photo

Por­tu­gal man­ager Fer­nando San­tos ex­pects Cris­tiano Ron­aldo, 31, to main­tain his ex­cel­lence.

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