The perception that Cristiano Ronaldo is vain and only out for personal glory is wide of the mark, according to his former coach at Real Madrid Carlo Ancelotti.
Ronaldo’s Portugal face Croatia in Euro 2016’s last 16 on Saturday and Ancelotti, who is taking over from Manchester City-bound Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich for the 2016-17 season, defended the forward against accusations of self-interest.
Ancelotti, who won the 2014 Champions League with Ronaldo and Madrid, insisted the 31-year-old’s public image does not match what he experienced as his coach between 2013 and 2015.
“You see a different kind of Cristiano Ronaldo when you are the manager of his team,” Ancelotti wrote in The Telegraph.
“The rest of the world has become obsessed with the image and the look of the man, or how he celebrates when he scores, or how he reacts when things go wrong. I just saw a guy who always wanted to do his best.
“First of all, I never once saw him in front of the dressing-room mirror or worrying about how he looked. For Cristiano the priority was always to win.
“There were a lot of strong guys in that Real Madrid dressing room – it was a basic requirement of being at the club that you needed a big personality.”
Ancelotti hailed the work Ronaldo has put in to become one of the finest footballers in the history of the game, noting he is particularly interested in the fitness side of the sport and “lived for the game”.
“He is a pleasure to manage,” said Ancelotti. “We all know about the work he puts in to be so strong and his perfectionism on the training ground when it comes to technique.
“He also understands that a lot about being a top footballer, with the demands of the modern game, is about recovery. It is what you do in between the games that counts for so much. He would talk to our medical staff all the time, he would try to figure out what he needed.
“The boy lived for the game – everything else was built to fit around it. That meant his recovery times, what he ate, when he ate, his commercial commitments, even his private life. All of it was organised so that when he stepped on the pitch he would be at the absolute peak of his performance.
“No footballer can be 100 per cent fit every time he plays, but Ronaldo never got badly injured because he did so much of the prevention work that can help you avoid those sort of problems.”