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“Cristiano Ronaldo is the biggest hard worker in the history of football”, says Thierry Marchand in a book

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What prompted you to write this book about Cristiano Ronaldo

?

I wanted to tackle a subject that I mastered. Having met Cristiano fifteen times, I told myself that there was material to write this book. I wanted to tell about my own Cristiano, the one I met in particular as part of the Ballon d’Or (he won five Ballons d’Or: in 2008, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017, editor’s note).

Why did you subtitle the book “The Man Who Wanted to Be Loved”?

When we know Cristiano’s story, everything starts from the fact that his mother wanted to have an abortion before he was born. Unwanted, he never stopped proving to his mother, his family, Portugal and the whole world that he deserved to exist. He comes across as arrogant, but he’s not. All the postures he releases on and off the field, it is to show others that he is the best. He plays a role that could mean: “Look how beautiful I am, when I almost never was born. And today, I want to be loved because my mother did not want me”.

I tell these moments of intimacy that I lived with him. I take the reader to places no one has been

A dozen books have been devoted to Ronaldo. How is yours different from others?

No one has met him so many times. No one has had dinners and galas with him. In this book, I recount these moments of intimacy that I experienced with him. I take the reader behind the scenes, to places no one has been.

His early career turned out to be rather rocky…

It was, in fact, built in difficulty. When, at the age of 12, he left his native island of Madeira to join the Sporting Academy in Lisbon, he was mocked for his accent. At 20, he lost his alcoholic father. There were also accusations of rape, tax evasion and he lost one of his children. He always encountered obstacles that had to be overcome.

How does he behave in an interview?

He is always cash and he never uses the language of wood. When I ask him if he is addicted to the Ballon d’Or, he replies that it is not only that that counts. But, in the ten seconds that follow, he admits to me that this trophy is, of course, what is most important to him.

He is the first in the ranking of the most generous sportsmen. Everywhere he wants to be the first

In your book, you also come back to his generosity. You write as follows: “Become rich with billions, Cristiano constantly redistributes his fortune for collective causes such as research against cancer or children suffering from leukemia, when he does not subsidize particular cases”.

He communicates very little on this subject. For him, it’s normal: he has money, he spends it for himself but also a lot for others, like in favor of this child suffering from leukemia and who underwent an operation in the United States, which cost tens of thousands of euros. Contrary to what he lets appear, Cristiano has a certain modesty vis-à-vis his generosity but, by doing this, he proves, there too, that he is the best. An American company has thus established a ranking of the most generous sportsmen and he is the first. Everywhere, he wants to be the first.

How do you judge it during this World Cup?

This World Cup is really important for him. Aged 37 today, he knows that this is obviously his fifth and last participation and that he is in a position to win it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Portugal won it (Portugal faces Switzerland, this Tuesday evening at 8 p.m., in the round of 16 of the World Cup in Qatar, editor’s note?).

A comment on the rivalry between Ronaldo and the Argentinian Lionel Messi?

Here in Barcelona, ​​journalist Thierry Marchand alongside Lionel Messi

Here in Barcelona, ​​journalist Thierry Marchand alongside Lionel Messi (Thierry Marchand Collection)

I’m sure in his head he thinks if Portugal go far in the World Cup they will win the Ballon d’Or

While his divorce has just been pronounced with Manchester United, in which club do you see Ronaldo evolving?

He will go to a club that plays in the Champions League: Chelsea or Bayern Munich. But I would see him more in the German club. As he is very attached to records, he thinks that if he is German champion with Bayern, it will mean that he will have won four foreign championships with four different clubs. He will have won everything. His destination will also depend on what Portugal will do in the World Cup. I’m sure in his head he thinks that if Portugal go far he will win the Ballon d’Or, especially if he goes to Bayern and they win the league and the Champions League. On the other hand, I do not believe that he will leave for the United States, at the risk, for him, of disappearing from the radar screens.

Among the players you have interviewed, which ones have marked you the most?

Cruyff and Pele. The first had this professorial side and this energy to want to evangelize football. As for Pelé, he had a Christian, spiritual dimension. When you were in front of him, you had the impression of being in front of an extraordinary character, like a god. Both made me dream, unlike Maradona, who had a cheating side that I didn’t like.

Aged 61, you have been living in Saint-Martin-des-Champs (29) for three years. Why this choice ?

For 30 years, I have always been in love with Finistère-Nord where my father-in-law had a house, in Roscoff (29). In this region, I like this earthy and wild side which reminds me of my Franche-Comté roots. Here, we are in the natural and not in the bling-bling. There is also this work side. Here, we work and we don’t complain.

"Cristiano Ronaldo is the biggest hard worker in the history of football", says Thierry Marchand in a book
“Cristiano” (Flammarion), €19.90. After having been correspondent for L’Équipe in the United States, Thierry Marchand was deputy editor-in-chief of the football section of the daily, from 2004 to 2009, then head of the foreign football department of France Football, until 2021.

“Cristiano Ronaldo is the biggest hard worker in the history of football”, says Thierry Marchand in a book(DR)

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