Your questions answered by football's biggest legends
From the July 2007 issue
Walking into Milanello, AC Milan’s plush training ground, you could be mistaken for thinking you’re entering a top-class golf club. Set in the midsts of a forest, perfectly-manicured green grass around every corner and without another building in sight, it’s easy to forget why you’re here. What jolts you back to reality is the small crowd of supporters gathered outside the main gates, waiting noiselessly for an autograph.
Today, Ronaldo is late. In truth, that’s not unusual. You never know what time he will arrive. Sometimes he doesn’t arrive at all. Yesterday he picked up a minor injury at the end of the training session and we were forced to postpone our interview for 24 hours. So, as we sit in the sunshine, FourFourTwo crosses its fingers tightly and says a little prayer.
Since his return to Italy from Spain, this is the first time Ronaldo has agreed to speak to the foreign press. Although he would probably deny it, he is not to proud to understand that you always have something to prove to someone. Even if you are one the greatest players ever to have played the game. Even if your nickname is The Phenomenon and you have three FIFA World Player of the Year awards (1996, 1997, 2002) collecting dust on your mantelpiece. And where you prove yourself is on the pitch, rather than with your mouth.
In January, after four and a half years at the Bernabeu, Ronaldo asked Real Madrid for a transfer, agreeing to a drop in salary because he was desperate to play. Play football and score goals, something he does better than anything else in life (and better than almost anyone on the planet). It doesn't matter for which team – Cruzeiro, PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid or Cruzeiro – Ronaldo is always Ronaldo, never belonging to this club or that. For some, he is a no-team footballer, son of the modern game’s star system. For others, a futuristic forward who scores the kind of goals of which others only dream.
When he finally appears, it’s late afternoon and the sun is edging towards the tops of the trees. Dressed in a pale pink t-shirt, oversize denim rapper pants, white trainers and sporting a new, sleek haircut, he looks younger than you might expect and certainly fitter than most fans would imagine. And he’s in good spirits – even if he does start grumbling immediately: he’s “tired”, “too busy”, “in a rush and already late” for his next appointment.
He plays the media game, Milan’s press officer explains to FourFourTwo. And in truth, he’s anything but a prima donna. Polite, easygoing, bordering on friendly, he goes along with all the photographer’s requests. And after 20 minutes of pictures, he sits down on a huge white sofa, ready to answer your questions.
This interview is part of FourFourTwo Legends: The Interviews, a special magazine collating interviews with 24 icons of the game: for more details, see David Hall's blog How Pele taught me to be the Editor of FourFourTwo.
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