In a World Cup where Cristiano Ronaldo is on fire, it is not hard to find fans of the Portugal star. But, to find a supporter who has followed his rise from his early days—no, before his time at Manchester United—is a rarity and a pleasure.
I bumped into Ricardo Rosa at Gorky Park, Moscow. He was wearing a Sporting CP jersey—Cristiano Ronaldo’s first club. Rosa is a die-hard fan of the club, and has kept a tab on Ronaldo’s rise ever since his days in the SCP academy.
Rosa is 34, just like Ronaldo. He says that the most obvious trait during Ronaldo’s time at SCP was his leadership skills, even at such a young age. “In the 2004 Euro and the 2006 World Cup, he was already a leader in the Portugal team,” he says.
Not once does he mention the trickery or showboating that the young Ronaldo was known for, but instead chooses to talk about his mentality. “I think he is the most professional and focused player the world has ever known,” he says. “That is why, at this age, he is doing so well—at his fourth World Cup. I am sure he will play a fifth.”
I quiz him about the two people that Ronaldo is often compared to—Portuguese legend Eusebio and Lionel Messi. “Eusebio was a long time ago, but he never reached the level that Ronaldo has reached,” says Rosa. “Football then was much different and the game has advanced so much, tactically and the speed of the game. Both exceeded the norm of their times. But, no Portuguese player in history has come close to Ronaldo.”
He is not irked by the Messi comparison. Rather unexpectedly and calmly he says that Portuguese are aware that Messi is much better in terms of technique and skills. “But, Ronaldo has performed on the big stage, like this one. No player can do that, not even Messi. That is what sets him apart,” says Rosa, before the conversation trailed off into his love for India.