World Soccer: You’re like a rock star these days. Does fame bother you?
Cristiano Ronaldo: I never think about it. Over the last three years my life has changed a lot. All over the world people know me, they recognise me. One aspect is good, it’s nice. But some aspects are not so good. People watch everything you do. You have to stay on your guard all the time. It’s quite difficult because of that. But I have to think about my career. This is the most important thing for me. I don’t care what people say about things outside of football. This doesn’t matter. About football, yes I care, because that is what I love to do. Football is my career and it’s always nice when people say nice things about you but, to be honest, it’s not difficult to be famous.
Do you ever see yourself starring in the movies?
Oh yeah, well maybe in the future! [laughs] I have talents other than just football! People don’t know about them, but I do!
You’ve just had your first serious injury. Last year, the Belgian goalkeeper Stijn Stijnen said he would try to break your legs.
Yes, he tried to intimidate me. But it was no problem because I scored two goals!
Have you ever been intimidated by an opposing player?
To be honest, I’m never afraid of football. Of some other things, yes I am afraid, but in football I’m not afraid of anything.
But it does happen quite a lot doesn’t it?
It’s normal. The papers try to talk about it but it doesn’t work on me. My focus is always to play well. When I step onto the pitch I switch my mind on and I don’t think about what people say about me. If they say that Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t defend I don’t think about them. I try to concentrate on my own job.
You have mentioned your family, but who else has been important in your career?
Everyone. Every coach has helped me. The players, the directors, my friends – they have all helped me and made me what I am today.
Was it important for you to have Portuguese people such as Carlos Queiroz with you in Manchester?
When I arrived there nobody spoke Portuguese. Now, nine or 10 players can speak Portuguese. There are some Brazilians, some from Angola. It’s nice to hear Portuguese on the pitch, in the gym. It’s always nice.
Are there lots of different languages spoken in the dressing room at Manchester United?
Most of the players speak English. It’s only me, Nani and Anderson who speak Portuguese regularly. We can make fun of the English because they don’t speak Portuguese!
Sometimes defenders get upset when you make fun of them on the pitch. Is it part of your character to show that you are a top player?
I’ve always played like that. You didn’t get an opportunity to see me when I was six, seven, eight years old. Some people who knew me then say it’s the same Cristiano. I like to dribble, to run with the ball. Maybe some people think I do that because I’m a joker but this is my style, this is what I try to do, this is what I like to do. I like to dribble, this is my type of footballer. Some other players have a different style but I’ve always been like that. I know some defenders get angry with me and try to kill me on the pitch. That’s normal in football.
Some people have said Italian football is now a home for older players, like Shevchenko and Ronaldinho, while England is better for younger players.
Well, Milan have won the Champions League with older players. Age is not the most important thing. Italian people have a different mentality. If you do the right things on the pitch, people don’t care about age. If you have talent, you have to play. In Italy, if you are a player of 35 and you are a better player than a boy of 20 or 21, you have to play. Age is not important.
After the 2006 World Cup, there was a lot of speculation that Manchester United fans would not accept you, but they did. After this summer’s rumours about a possible move to Real Madrid, were you worried the supporters might react in the wrong way?
Well, I think with special players there is speculation all the time. If you play well, if you are one of the best players in the world, all clubs want you. This is normal, it’s not just for me, it’s normal for everyone. For Ronaldinho, for Kaka, for Messi, for Lampard. It’s always news. When you play well in one season, the other clubs talk about you. This is nice. The other clubs appreciate you and I think it’s good for your development. I did an interview during the summer and I said what I think. I’m an honest guy. I always speak with the right people in the club, I feel very happy in the club. I say what I’m thinking. I have no fear. People know when I put on the Manchester United shirt I try to do my best all the time. I try to score, I try to provide assists, I try to win things. I’ve been at the club for five years and I think the fans love me because I play well, I enjoy the crowd. It’s not easy for me but when I start to play the fans will be happy.
You’ve been at the club five years, but players like Ryan Giggs and George Best are legends because they spent their whole careers at Old Trafford. Is that something that you aspire to? Or are you already a legend?
Well, I feel good in the club. But I’ve said a thousand times: in the future, no one knows. I think I’m part of Manchester United’s history now after what I’ve done. But I want more. It doesn’t matter which club I play for: whether it’s Nacional, Sporting or Manchester. I’m always honest, I’m always professional. I’ve always tried to be professional, it doesn’t matter with which club. But at the moment I feel great in Manchester.
You said earlier that you like new challenges. Can you do that by staying with the same club, in the same league?
Why not? I’m ambitious. If I stay in Manchester, I’ll be the same and keep on trying to get better.
But what can you do more than you did last season?
More? Well it depends what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for more goals, it won’t be easy. Maybe I could score against every team in England! It will be difficult but goals are not the most important things sometimes. Some players appreciate players when they help the team, when they are a team player. Goals are important but if you help the team, everyone enjoys it, everyone is happy. This is what I try to do.
Are you saying you want to be more of a team player?
Exactly. The players respect you more when you are more of a team player.
Does it surprise you that a striker did not win the Golden Shoe?
Well I took my chances. It’s not easy when you play as a winger, it’s not the same as a striker. You have more opportunities to score as a striker. This award is a good opportunity to show people that football has changed. I’ve changed it a little bit because I’m the first winger [to win the award]. Something has changed. It’s nice that I’ve changed that.
Do you think not being a striker may even have helped you to score so many goals last season?
It depends. Last season I had more opportunities to play in more of a free role and I scored a few goals from free-kicks and penalties. So that helped me a little bit.
Now that United have signed Dimitar Berbatov, do you think you will play more in a wide role this season?
I hope not – and to be honest I don’t think I will.
So do you prefer to play in a free role more?
Last season I played with Rooney and Carlos [Tevez], sometimes we moved around. I think this season it will be the same because we’ll all be playing…
But Berbatov will be the focal point of the attack? Surely that will be different…
No, you can change a little, just for five minutes [laughs]. It’s ok. I hope we can change things a little to give me an opportunity to play in the front a little bit. To be honest, it doesn’t matter. If you are winning, that’s the most important thing.
What do you think about the takeover of Manchester City?
United are now the second richest team in Manchester…
It’s unbelievable. These people have money but sometimes money doesn’t buy you the right players. You can never tell what will happen in the future, but that’s my opinion.
Have you spoken to your team-mates about it?
Of course, everyone’s talking about it because it’s a lot of money. But it’s quite a surprise for everyone. I think it’s nice that a guy like this comes along, like Abramovich changed things at Chelsea. For 50 years Chelsea had not won anything, then Abramovich arrived and they won two titles straight away with Mourinho. Why not Manchester City? It’s good for football.
United would not let you join Real Madrid in the summer. But how would you feel if they were to say, because of all Manchester City’s money, you can go and play for the local rivals?
It’s not about money. Money’s not the most important thing. It’s good for Manchester City, who now want to change everything, they want to buy great players. But you need time to do that. But it’s nice for football that it’s not just Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea [able to buy top players]. Maybe Manchester City can compete for the League as well – that would be good for football.
You say that money is not everything. Is that why you did not move to Madrid?
So many questions about Madrid! Well, [I can say] money was not the reason, 100 per cent.
How much did Manchester United suffer when Carlos Queiroz left? And how much did the Portugal national team gain?
I had the opportunity to work with Queiroz for four years and for me Carlos is amazing. He’s an amazing coach, I love to work with him. He has nice methods of training, he’s very professional. In my opinion, we miss Carlos in Manchester but we win with him in the Portugal squad. Sometimes, I think a coach needs time to do a good job, but I look forward to working with him. He’s a great man and a great, great, great coach. If you had the opportunity to sign Carlos to stay five years in Portugal, you should sign him because he’s fantastic. I’ve had the opportunity to work with him for a few years and he was amazing.
Do you think Jose Mourinho will be successful in Italy?
Why not? When you are good, you are good everywhere, not just in England or Portugal. Sometimes you need time because it’s a different league, with different football. But he’s going to do a great job because he’s a great coach and he’s got great players around him.
And what about Ricardo Quaresma, who has joined Mourinho at Internazionale?
It’s the same. He played for many years in Portugal. Now he’s playing in a different league with a different mentality. I have to wish him all the best for the future.
Fellow Portugal international Danny also grew up in Madeira. Do you know him?
I’ve known him for many years. He’s a great lad, a great player. Now he’s joined Zenit it’s good for him, he’s started to get called up by Portugal. It’s a good opportunity. He deserved that because he’s a good boy.
Finally, Cristiano, is there a secret to your free-kick technique? How do you bend the ball?
My nails [laughs]. I don’t know, I just practise all the time. How and what, I can’t tell you, it’s a secret!