Work ethic will sustain Ronaldo
Portugal manager Santos says his captain will continue to perform at the highest level for years to come.
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.”
Portugal manager Fernando Santos expects Cristiano Ronaldo, 31, to maintain his excellence.