In an appearance on BT Sport recently, Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand revealed how a training ground bust-up between Cristiano Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy inspired the Portuguese youngster to go on and become one of the sport’s greatest ever players.
Ronaldo joined United as a relatively unknown youngster in the summer of 2003, and although he impressed with his dazzling footwork and scary speed, he often lacked an end product.
Ferdinand says Dutch striker Van Nistelrooy, who was the club’s star player at the time, got so fed up with Ronaldo that one day in training, he decided to confront the teenager.
“Ruud [Van Nistelrooy] was the man at United at the time. He was the man who scored all the goals,” Ferdinand said on BT Sport on Thursday. “Ronaldo had the ball wide and was doing tricks and Ruud was making the run in the box, Ronaldo didn’t pass and Ruud went crazy, screaming. ‘He should be in the circus, he shouldn’t be on the pitch’ Ruud said and walked in, off the training pitch, and Ronaldo got upset and angry: ‘Why is he talking to me like that?’.
“He was 18 or 19 at the time. Some kids would have gone under, and lost confidence. Some would’ve kept doing the same, but Ronaldo knew that Ruud might be right, and then it became all about numbers, about statistics, goals. What is going to make him the best player in the world?” Ferdinand further added.
“We used to say to him, take the mick out of him and say: ‘You are not the real No. 7 at the club, you’ve got George Best and Beckham,’ and you could see him thinking: ‘How can I derail them?'” Ferdinand added that Ronaldo’s mindset was unlike any player he has ever seen.
“About mindset, I don’t know a stronger, more determined, obsessed player that I’ve shared a changing room with,” he added. “I was fortunate to watch him go from a boy to a man over a few years and him affecting training sessions. He was absolutely obsessed with winning a training session and scoring the last goal.”
Ronaldo went on to score 118 goals in 292 games for United, before leaving for Real Madrid in 2009, where he went on to score 450 goals in nine seasons and win four Ballons d’Or. Since moving to Juventus in 2018, the 35-year-old has scored a further 85 goals in 110 games, which when added to his international tally of 102, makes him arguably soccer’s greatest-ever goalscorer.