Anderson was in Rio de Janeiro, on vacation, when his manager called him in July 2006. He needed a favor. He asked the Brazilian midfielder, then in Porto (POR), to go to São Paulo, pick up a Portuguese player at the airport, and take him to Guarujá.
The first answer was no, but the agent insisted. In a bad mood, Anderson picked up the passenger arriving from New York, where he had traveled for a few weeks but had become bored.
It was in the lobby of Guarulhos airport that the midfielder met Cristiano Ronaldo.
“When I went to Manchester United in 2007, for the first few days I stayed at his house. He wanted to reciprocate my help”, recalls Anderson, who was also managed in the past by Jorge Mendes, the mega-entrepreneur who takes care of the Portuguese’s career until today.
This Saturday (11), Ronaldo returns to the club where he exploded in football. He is expected to wear the United jersey again at Old Trafford against Newcastle. Hiring that became one of the most emblematic of the last transfer window. Red Devils fans hope he’s the missing piece to put the team in the fight for the Premier League title it hasn’t won since 2013.
Yahoo Sports spoke in recent days with Brazilians who shared a locker room with the star at Sporting, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus to collect stories about the striker voted five times best in the world. And they all agree on one aspect: CR7 is obsessed with football and fitness.
“He goes to dinner with a ball and keeps changing passes from one foot to the other. I found it strange. Then you get used to it”, continues Anderson, Champions League champion, alongside Ronaldo in 2008 and runner-up in 2009.
The idea of spending a few days in Guarujá came from Mendes. Cristiano wanted to go to the beach. During the period, he had a quick relationship with actress and model Karina Bacchi.
“His obsession with training headbutts, submissions and being in perfect physical condition was something I’ve never seen the same in his career,” recalls full-back Fabio. Along with his twin brother, he joined United in 2008 after leaving Fluminense.
One of the stories Fabio remembers most happened in early 2009, when Cristiano Ronaldo arrived in the locker room celebrating that his new Ferrari had arrived.
“He said he was going to debut it. It was too beautiful a car. There was no other: he came to practice with Ferrari the next day. On the way out, the car crashed! Cristiano only saw her twice”, remembers the 18-year-old boy at the time.
Ronaldo shocked Ferrari with the wall in a tunnel near Manchester airport. He was not injured, but the vehicle was unrecognizable.
“Ronaldo since he was a kid was very happy. He had the ability to make people like him very easily. I loved hanging out with him and playing games. I remember he asked a lot. I wanted to know how I did it, why I did it. There were hours that even filled his patience. But it was his way of wanting to learn,” says former striker Jardel, Sporting’s top scorer between 2001 and 2003, when the 16-year-old boy, with a face full of pimples, appeared in the professional cast of the Portuguese team.
These days, when he sees CR7 making a head goal, Jardel tells anyone close to him that the world football star learned that technique from him.
Other former Brazilian colleagues confirm the charisma of the Portuguese. Sometimes it worked with technicians. It worked mostly with Sir Alex Ferguson, who treated the young attacker like a son.
“Sir Alex loves Cristiano. And he took advantage of it. Not out of malice, but out of sluttyness. He did things with the coach that the others didn’t dare to do, like hide things from Sir Alex and then stay and watch him search. If it were another player who did that, he would be lost”, says defensive midfielder Rodrigo Possebon.
In his first visit to Old Trafford, between 2003 and 2009, Ronaldo gradually achieved prominence. But when he arrived at Real Madrid (2009) and then moved to Juventus (2018), the situation changed. He’s been the company’s star from day one, with the responsibilities, charges and bonuses that come with it.
“Cristiano has a very high level of demand and you have to be in it. I don’t even say during the game, At the time of training, there is no game. His obsession with improving every aspect of the game is impressive and happens every day. This helps the younger ones that are emerging. They are mirrored in it”, says full-back Danilo, who played with Manchester United’s new reinforcement at the Spanish and Italian clubs.
Over time, Brazilians also learned the best time to speak Portuguese and, especially, when to avoid it.
“If his team lost in practice, forget it. He is disgusted with losing in any situation, even if it is a training activity”, he concludes.