Real Madrid and Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo talks with his sponsor Nike in a wide-ranging Q&A about what makes the forward tick on and off the pitch.
From his biggest fears to greatest passions away from the game, Ronaldo shares a rare glimpse into the world of CR7.
Who is Cristiano Ronaldo off the pitch?
A normal person. I try to do normal stuff, surrounded by my family, my friends, my son. Just trying to be as normal as possible. I’m just training in the morning, so when I arrive home I get to do other things that make me feel comfortable.
What is your biggest passion outside of football?
I have many, but I will just mention one, which is playing with my kid.
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) August 28, 2015
You’re widely considered to be the best football player on the planet. What keeps you motivated if you’re already at the pinnacle of the sport?
Well, my challenge is always, year-to-year, trying to be the best—training hard to get myself 100% all the time. My main goal is to always achieve this kind of success. This is what I am trying to do all of the time, and the last eight, nine, ten years I think have gone pretty well. So I try to keep going like that.
What or who is your greatest source of inspiration?
The people who I work with, the people around me—they are always giving me motivation and the opportunity to work hard and be good. They give me good vibes, good energy, and I think that that is the most important thing for me.
What is your biggest fear?
Dying young. I don’t want to die young. I want to be old and die when I’m 80 or 90.
What are you thinking in the moment right before you take the pitch for a match?
Nothing special. I try to enjoy it. Playing football is what I like to do. So I just enjoy it, the sport, and I want to allow the fans and the public to enjoy it, too.
Francesco Totti is an amazing footballer and undeniably the greatest ever to pull on the distinctive maroon and gold shirt of AS Roma. Already the club’s all-time leading goal scorer and appearance maker by a wide margin, the 38-year-old has captained the side since 1998, by which time he had already been part of the first-team for six seasons. Roma and Totti have become so synonymous with one another, their stories so completely intertwined, that it is impossible to discuss the Giallorossi without mentioning him and vice-versa.
– Taha Ismail: Politics, power and coaching Saudi
Yet as the 2015-16 campaign – the 24th in which Totti will step out as a Roma player – gathers pace, it could finally be the year that sees the team outgrow its most recognisable player.
With his side preparing to face Juventus, Totti is a vastly different performer than he made his Roma bow almost a quarter of a century ago. Handed his debut by Vujadin Boskov away to Brescia on March 28, 1993, it was not Until September 1994 that he found the net for the first time – it remains his longest goalless streak by some distance.
Since then, over the course of a staggering 743 appearances, his on-field style has altered dramatically, just as the greatest stage performers have always done throughout their careers. Wherever he played he has always dazzled the crowds, the Stadio Olimpico becoming his personal stage as he put on weekly performances that often had to be seen to be believed.
He started out as a brilliantly creative force, with a succession of coaches looking for the best place to field him, moving from the left wing to being a prototypical playmaker pulling the strings behind the strikers. It was there that he inspired Fabio Capello’s side to what is thus far the only Serie A title of his career in 2000-01. It was not for another four years, when Luciano Spalletti arrived in 2005, that he was first deployed as a striker.
The evolution continued into what would now be described as a “false nine,” as Totti dropped deep to create space for his midfielders to run in to. Using his exquisite vision to pick them out with the wonderful range of passing that has always been his calling card, at times it felt as if Totti was playing the Roman gladiator he has tattooed on his right shoulder.
"With exquisite vision and wonderful passing, Totti's influence has made him seem at times like the Roman gladiator tattooed on his shoulder."
As many of the traditional Serie A giants struggled, he often seemed to be single-handedly fighting against the dominance of Inter Milan as they racked up a string of championships in the post-Calciopoli era.
Yet in recent years it has been the Giallorossi who have floundered, finishing sixth twice and then seventh before Rudi Garcia was handed the task of coaching the team. Implementing the same 4-3-3 system he had used in guiding former club Lille to the Ligue 1 title, the Frenchman briefly reignited AS Roma, and it appeared they could be the side to finally stop Juventus monopolising the Scudetto.
Despite being runners-up in each of the two previous campaigns, they have still finished a stunning seventeen points behind the Turin giants, and there is little doubt that their lack of cutting edge in attack has been to blame. Last season they bagged a paltry 54 goals, a total bettered by no fewer than seven other teams as Totti and Adem Ljajić led all players with a meagre eight league goals.
Garcia has filled the central role in attack with Edin Dzeko, while the arrival of Mohamed Salah indicates that Garcia will persist with the same4-3-3 formation for the forthcoming campaign. At his advanced age, Totti can no longer find the time and space needed to score with the necessary regularity – his last 136 appearances have yielded just 38 goals.
Dzeko is now in the Italian capital, and the Bosnian striker would appear to be the ideal fit for the coach’s system, yet it would be difficult for Garcia to routinely relegate Totti to a role on the bench. At this point in his career, and with the wealth of respect rightly afforded to him by both the club and their fans, forcing the captain into a back-up role could prove disastrous for all concerned.
That said, it is hard to imagine any better line-up than an attacking trident that has Salah and Iago Falque flanking Dzeko ahead of the talent-laden midfield available to the Giallorossi. With little chance of regularly side-lining Totti however, Garcia, AS Roma and the living legend find themselves at an impasse rather than a crossroads.
While his creativity if often widely lauded, it is perhaps Totti’s ability to reinvent himself that should be seen as his greatest attribute, and he could well surprise everyone by revealing yet another side to his game this year. He has made his career by seeing angles nobody else can and getting the ball into – and indeed out of – seemingly impossible situations, so the prospect of him solving this riddle is certainly not to be ruled out.
Often proclaimed the “King of Rome,” the man himself is the only one with the power to call time on his reign, and he seems nowhere near ready to do so. He remained an unused substitute as the side were held to a 1-1 draw by Hellas Verona last weekend, only adding to the pressure for him to once again take a prominent role.
Finding the answer to this conundrum could well define 2015-16 for AS Roma, but if Francesco Totti doesn’t have the answer, he could end up hurting his beloved club rather than helping them in their on-going quest for the title.
UEFA President Michel Platini refused to speak about his candidacy to be the next FIFA President at a press conference in Monte Carlo, Monaco, saying he had "his UEFA hat on".