Rio Ferdinand has told us that former team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo has been a “visionary” and a “man possessed” since the day he joined Manchester United the first time around, which is why he has since gone on to become one of football’s all-time greats.

Ronaldo first joined United from Sporting Lisbon in 2003 and Ferdinand says even back then it was the forward’s ability to be able to push himself to the limit that has led to his rise to the pinnacle of the sport.

“Even when Cristiano first joined us his intelligence to grow and his desire and his obsession to get better was something else,” Ferdinand said. “His desire to be the best was just relentless. I’ve never seen anything like it. Just a man possessed to get to the top and he would do anything to get there.

“People never talk about Cristiano’s bravery. He was brave to take risks, by which I mean he comes over to another country and he was brave to remain the person that he was. He didn’t change really. Adapted, yes, but he didn’t change his core self and his foundations. He became obsessive with the sport that he chose, which was football, and then he drilled down into details, which involved building a team around himself…

“I went round his house once and I walked in and he had about six or seven people sitting in the front room. I said to him, ‘Cris, who are all these people?’ He said, ‘that’s my personal masseur, my nutritionist, my doctor, my physio, my chef…’ So, he had all these people and back then no one was doing that in the game. So, he was a visionary in that sense. He knew what it was going to take and if people were laughing at him for doing those extras at one time, by the time he got to be World Player of the Year, they were saying I’m going to copy that.”

Ronaldo returned to United this summer 18 years on from his original arrival at Old Trafford and Ferdinand believes it is the forward’s continued devotion to being the best that ensures he still stands out from the rest of the pack at the age of 36.

“Sometimes you’ve got to go against the grain and be a bit of a disruptor. Like in business, it’s the same as in sports,” Ferdinand said. “Disruptors, in the right way, they make waves and they’re remembered and they’re not forgotten. They go in there and they change it up. That’s just the way it is and I think Cristiano is just a visionary.

“He will have objects in the back of his room if we’re on Zoom and I say, ‘What’s that?’ He’ll go, ‘that’s the energy for the room.’ Mad stuff like that and I just think, ‘this guy is different.’ He’s just looking for every little detail that’s going to enable him to improve. He’ll send me a picture and he’s doing deep water recovery sessions in the sea. He’s driven two hours to get there when he was in Turin with Juventus. Other people are at home or out at dinner. He’s just looking for that extra edge.”

Ferdinand was also impressed with the hunger and desire Ronaldo showed upon signing for United this summer by stating that he wants to win more trophies with the club.

“I don’t think he feels pressure, I think he expects it now,” Ferdinand said. “That’s pressure straight away that he’s put on himself when joining Manchester United. He’s not dodging that question when he says ‘I’ve come here to win trophies, if I don’t it’s a disappointment.’ It’s a great mentality to have.”

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