I don’t know if there’s a more dispiriting phrase in the sports fan’s lexicon than “grudging respect,” but I’ve got to hand it to Cristiano Ronaldo: he’s saying all the right things as he leaves Manchester United.
Like this, for example:
[Ronaldo] says: “I have said many times that it is the relationship a son has with a father. He respects me and I respect him and when one of us is talking, the other ones [sic] listens. It is not a one-sided relationship. We both hear each other out and that is why we have got on so well.
“He taught me everything about football and I have never met a man who is so passionate about the game after so many years.
“He instilled that passion into me and he made me a winner. The most important thing he taught me is that second place is not an option.
“He also taught me lots of things in order to make me a better person and people might not understand how much time he invest in players off the pitch. But he really does and he cares about each and everyone of us.
“In an ideal world. I would like him to be my life coach and for me to never leave him but that is not possible and I just have to continue my journey and hold on to what he has taught me.”
And in saying his final goodbye to Fergie, he cannot resist recounting the moment he knew the world’s finest club manager believed Ronaldo would become one of the world’s finest players … and a worthy successor to Best, Beckham and Cantona.
He explains: “Sir Alex has shown so much confidence in me and for that I owe him everything. When I arrived – even though I did not want it – he insisted I have number seven on my shirt.
“I was very adamant that I did not want it. Then, he sat me down and told me about the history of the number seven and said … do you understand what I am trying to say to you? I think you will be worthy of wearing this shirt.
“When I think of the greats who have worn that United shirt, I understood how much confidence he had in me. And I hope now that I am another Manchester United great who wore the most famous shirt at the club.”
Ronaldo–who lost his actual father while he was at Old Trafford–also said of Manchester United’s fans, “I just want to say thank you for all their support. I will never forget them and I hope I have given them memories that will always be with them.” Of course, where Cristiano Ronaldo’s concerned, whether he means what he says or whether he’s simply saying what he thinks people want to hear is debatable. In this instance, however, and in light of the fact he did give me a lot of good memories, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
Grudging respect. It sucks.