09 July 2016

Cristiano Ronaldo's first coach overjoyed for Portugal captain

MARCA chat to key figures of the player's past

Adaptation of mine in MARCA

Recalling their role in Cristiano Ronaldo's first major steps to footballing supremacy, the attacker's first coach at Sporting Lisbon is delighted to see Ronaldo within touching distance of a European Championship.

Moving from Madeira at the tender age of 12, the player endured a tough settling-in period, but he could always count on the support of two men at the Sporting academy; Professor Aurelio Pereira, who took him to the capital, and his coach, Leonel Pontes.

The duo now watch on he leads his country to the final of the European Championship; and they've been here before, when a young Ronaldo was the bright light in a star-studded Portugal side that fell at the final hurdle against Greece in 2004.

Before leading out his nation in Paris, Pontes recalls how he developed in Lisbon, alongside several of his current national teammates.

"I would have preferred it had they not called him Ronaldo back then, because there was already a pretty famous Ronaldo," Pontes begins.

"That was a lot for a 12-year-old, he didn't want any extra special status. It's brilliant to see him now, back in the final again, among with the others I worked with at Sporting; Rui Patricio, Jose Fonte, Adrien Silva, William Carvalho, Nani, and Joao Moutinho.

"He knows it's a really unique opportunity and I see him really motivated; he's not only preparing himself, he's preparing all the others too.

"He was already a leader as a 12-year-old just like he is now; it didn't matter what the game was.

"We were closely matched in table football, but in table tennis he would always beat me, he had great technique and I used to laugh as he tried to show how he did it.

"He was something else a kid.”

Ronaldo always speaks with great affection of the two men who helped shaped him as a footballer; Sir Alex Ferguson and Pereira, head of the prolific Sporting Lisbon youth set-up that has also produced legends such as Luis Figo and Paulo Futre.

"I can remember this absolutely amazing kid who pushed himself every single day, with the force of will he had he did everything to achieve his dreams," Pereira recalls.

"Even then, he had had this incredible desire, he always knew what he had to do for the team.

"I'm so proud to see him involved, he's every inch a captain.”

There is a quiet awareness in Portugal that it's now or never for Ronaldo and for the several teammates who've been with him the whole way for the national team.

"We exchange messages before virtually every big game," Pereira says.

"And when I ask him, his answer is always the same: 'We are going to win!'"


No comments: