Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo reiterated that it is unfair to compare him with Barcelona forward Lionel Messi as the four-time Ballon d’Or winner picked up another honour on Wednesday when Chinese publication Dongqiudi named him their 2016 MVP.
Real Madrid play Wednesday’s Copa del Rey quarterfinal second leg at Celta Vigo and Ronaldo’s match fitness is a concern due to a painful foot problem.
But the Portugal captain said comparisons are to be expected given the rivalry between the two La Liga clubs.
“Cristiano is Cristiano and Messi is Messi,” Ronaldo told reporters. “We are both great players with individual and team titles that speak for themselves. The comparison? I don’t like to compare, that word doesn’t exist for me. We are different, two people just doing their jobs, that is all.
“He tries to be the best player for his team and I try to do the same for mine. We are rivals because we play for different clubs, but when we are together we show each other mutual respect. We have a normal relationship.
“People compare us all that time, that is normal. People even compared our sons when they were born and talk about who is the fastest and smartest at school. This is all part of the business. But I think that you can’t compare these things.”
After a record-breaking 40-match unbeaten run, Real Madrid finally suffered a nail-biting 2-1 defeat against Sevilla on Jan. 15 and Ronaldo was asked how he handles criticism.
“I just don’t care about [my critics],” Ronaldo said. “I try to do my job and be myself, everyone has people who hates them and it’s part of the business. But, I go to bed happy every night, I’m not here to satisfy my critics as I’m here for my fans and those who make me happy.”
He also said he pays little attention to those who have said his career is winding down as he prepares to turn 32 next month. He began 2017 by also landing the first FIFA Best Player award since world football’s governing body and France Football opted for two separate awards. The honour capped a memorable year that saw him win the Champions League with Real Madrid and the European Championship with Portugal — the country’s first major footballing silverware.
“Simply that doesn’t matter to me. I only endeavor to do my work and to be myself. Everyone has people who hate them, not just me,” he said. “That is all part of this business. I go to sleep every night happy and in a good mood. I sleep well each night.
“I am not here to please my detractors, I am here to make my fans happy. They are the ones who show me respect and love, they are the ones who support me all the time. For me, that is what matters.”
Ronaldo also spoke about his future plans.
“When I signed my new contract with Real Madrid, I said during the news conference that this would not be my last contract at Real Madrid because I want to play until I am 41. I meant what I said, but at the same time, I was joking. Because in football, nothing is guaranteed.
“If I feel like I am in good shape and I have no injuries and I continue to be motivated I will play until 35, 36, 37, 41, 45…I don’t know. Everything depends upon one’s mentality. And I hope that each year I find the motivation to continue to play football because it is my passion and what I love to do.”
Asked whether he would like to coach once he hangs up his boots, he said: “I think it would be very tough to coach. I don’t know. At this moment, I would say no. But we all change our minds, I can’t say that I will think the same in the future. Right now I am only focused on my career as a player.”
Ronaldo said he is happy to have Zinedine Zidane at the helm of the team. In Carlo Ancelotti’s last season as Real Madrid coach, the team’s hopes in La Liga were dashed in January and February and the injuries also saw them eliminated in the Copa del Rey.
“When he arrived at the club all of the players had great respect for him as a player. And now it is the same since he became the manager. He shows passion for football. When Zidane came everything changed,” he said.
“He is a very professional coach and very even tempered. He was exactly what we needed at that moment and with him everything changed.
“That is the reason we had a 40-game streak. He was largely responsible for that because he changed the team mentality and we began winning once he took over.”