Cristiano Ronaldo has no doubt he will be remembered as one of football’s greatest ever players – even though he accepts he cannot please everyone.
Real Madrid’s record goalscorer is also the leading marksman in Champions League history and needs just seven more goals to become the first player to reach 100 in the competition.
Ronaldo concedes he is always likely to have detractors but he insists his remarkable career statistics will guarantee his place in the footballing pantheon.
“I don’t doubt that I will go down in footballing history,” he told UEFA.com ahead of Madrid’s semi-final second leg with Manchester City this week.
“Whether people like it or not, the numbers speak for themselves. I will be up there with the rest. Some like it more, some like it less, but I have no doubt that I’m already in the history of football.”
Indeed, Ronaldo says he never doubted his own potential as a youth player with Sporting CP – although he claims the speed of his professional development came as a surprise.
“I always felt that I was a special player, ever since I was starting out at Sporting,” he said. “I felt that sooner or later I would be a top-level professional. I never thought it would come so fast, but I was preparing myself because, like I said, the talent was there.
“I’ve always worked hard, believed in my potential – in the academy at Sporting, at Manchester United and at Real Madrid as well – and I’ve developed more and more as a player, as a person, as a human being. I’ve enjoyed my work.
“Fans always like to see a good match, and to see goals obviously. And that’s my job. It’s to win, play well, score as many goals as possible, help my team and enjoy it. ‘Enjoy’ is the word that I need to underline, because that’s football: it’s happiness, it’s passion and it’s adversity as well.”
Ronaldo identified former Portugal stars Fernando Couto, Rui Costa and Luis Figo as examples to look up to early in his career, but he says he never considered any player an idol.
“To be honest, I never looked at any player and wanted to be like them; some great players who have passed through Sporting but I was always thinking further ahead,” he added.
“I was already thinking about the national team. I felt that playing for a big club was difficult but I was going to be able to do it, but playing for the national team is always more difficult. And then things happened very quickly.
“I signed for Manchester United, and after some time I was in the national team. My big reference points were Fernando Couto, Rui Costa and Luis Figo, because they were the biggest names in Portuguese football.”
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