CRISTIANO RONALDO spent so long on the training ground that Sir Alex Ferguson ordered him to leave because it was too close to a game.
The legendary boss feared the young Ronaldo would wear himself out perpetually practising all his trick, flicks and skills.
Nicky Butt came off when Ronaldo made his first Manchester United debut in 2003 and in the new book “Viva Ronaldo”, Butt reveals the secrets of Ronaldo’s determination to make it to the top.
Butt said: “Ronaldo was to emerge as a genius but it wasn’t just about his talents that took him right to the top.
“It is often said that certain players worked hard, stayed behind for some extra training or to practise their techniques, but with Cristiano it was total dedication, total commitment, and total hard work.
“He didn’t have a God given physique, it wasn’t given, he worked hard to achieve it. He actually came to us as a skinny, scrawny young kid, and worked hard to get that physique over many, may years.
“He had to reach a new level of physical strength because the Premier League demanded it, and he had plenty of opportunity to see at first hand how physical and tough it can be when he was up against, even in training, the likes of Roy Keane and Jaap Stam.
“We would also see him work relentlessly on his free kicks and he would tell us about something he had seen somewhere, and he wanted to perfect it, and he would work again relentlessly until he did.
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“It all went beyond dedication, he was obsessed with football.
“You see it all the time when some players talk about their dedication and how much extra practise they put in.
“But often it is little more than a pretence, maybe a touch more time practising and then rush off to do something else they are keen on, or can’t wait to go home and have something to eat, but rarely do you find someone totally committed 24/7 to the game, but Cristiano was one of those.
“He never had a girlfriend back then, or seemed that interested in any distractions such as that, he never had a wife and kids to rush back to see or to entertain, he lived alone.
“He was the last to leave the building. In fact, you couldn’t get him off the training pitch as he worked relentlessly on his techniques, as we all walking off he was carrying a bag of balls to work on those techniques.
“We would be having lunch in the canteen or getting ready to go home and you could hear the voice of Sir Alex bellowing across the training fields at two or three o’clock in the afternoon, shouting at Cristiano that it was time to get off the pitch as 'we have a game in two days – enough now'!"
He has returned just at the right time to this club, we’re crying out to regain that old successful winning formula and entertaining football
When he was replaced by Ronaldo against Bolton, Butt recalls: “As the change was made on the touchline I said to Cristiano, ‘good luck, enjoy it’.
“We were all aware that it wouldn’t be easy for an 18 year old coming to a new country and playing in a league where the intensity and pace is far greater than he had ever been used to in Portuguese football.
“The first thing he did when Cristiano came on was to dribble at people and he immediately got the fans on their feet with his trickery.
“We all appreciated that people in Manchester deserved to be entertained when they spent their hard earned money to come to watch us, and here they got an early glimpse of this new boy Cristiano Ronaldo and they loved what they could see of him. Nothing seemed to faze him.”
Butt knew he would comeback ‘home”, adding: “He showed loyalty to the club that gave him his big chance.
“He has returned just at the right time to this club, we’re crying out to regain that old successful winning formula and entertaining football. Make no mistake, he has created an incredible buzz about the place.”
Viva Ronaldo!: The Second Coming of Cristiano, Out Now by Harry Harris, Foreword by Nicky Butt, Empire Publishing £9.95
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