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EXCLUSIVE: Ronaldo cried for many days
Youth coordinator Aurelio Pereira has described how the prodigy from Madeira could have given up on his dream of turning professional if not for his remarkable mental strength.
The man who discovered Cristiano Ronaldo as a boy has described how he could have given up on his dream of becoming a professional footballer after a rough start to life at Sporting.
Aurelio Pereira was the Portuguese club’s youth coordinator when they unearthed the Real Madrid star at the age of 11. At that point, he was playing for Nacional’s youth teams in his hometown of Funchal.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Verge24, Pereira revealed that the move away from home and transition to life at one of Portugal’s biggest clubs regularly left the young Ronaldo in tears.
“When Ronaldo came to Lisbon, he was only 12 and it was very difficult for him to adapt,” he said. “He cried many days.
“He left his village, his family, he came to a big and distant city, in a difficult atmosphere, and with some facilities not as good we have now… just imagine how hard it was!
“If he wasn’t so strong and so convinced that his dream was to become a footballer, he would have quit.”
Despite his personal problems, however, Ronaldo’s ability was evident to Pereira from the moment he arrived in the country’s capital.
“Cristiano was very talented at 11,” he added. “He had fantastic control, his mentality was great, and he had a great attitude and determination.
“He arrived at 12 and he passed the trial. When he was 16 years old, he passed the trial for the first team.
“Nacional signed a player called Franco and had a debt of €25,000 with Sporting, so they offered to pay us with some players. Ronaldo was among them. I had some reliable reports from some friends, so I accepted him to come and train with us.
“I watched him twice and suggested the transfer to the executives, fortunately! All the rest of the kids older than Cristiano felt that he was there, that he was different, extraordinary. [Even] when he was young, he already trained with weights.”
Ronaldo has since placed himself among the greatest players in football history and is the current favourite to claim a fourth Ballon d’Or at the end of the year.
“Ronaldo is the clear favourite to win the Ballon D’Or,” Pereira insisted. “After winning the Champions League and Euro 2016, I can’t see any other player capable of winning the Ballon d’Or. It would be the final touch for his current season.
“I’m very excited about Ronaldo returning to Lisbon [in the Champions League]. I’ll be at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday and I’ll try to meet Cristiano before the game. We’ve kept up a good relationship. We sent several messages after the draw and he is also very excited about this game against Sporting.”
Pereira, who retains working links with Sporting to this day, believes that Ronaldo would be treated as an idol if he was to return to his first club in the latter stages of his career.
“Cristiano is quite beloved here in Lisbon,” he explained. “I remember perfectly the day he played here with Manchester United (Ronaldo scored the winning goal, but did not celebrate and was given a standing ovation). I was at the stadium and it was a fine welcome.
“I know that people will do the same when he comes with Real Madrid. He is highly respected within the club. We are all excited about that game in Lisbon.
“The European Championship was the one title left in Ronaldo’s career. Portugal needed that trophy, too. It came at the right moment. It projected our football to the rest of the world.
“Ronaldo is not only a product of Sporting, but of all of Portuguese football. He is like a hero for all the country.”
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