Speaking exclusively to L’Équipe in an interview published on Saturday, Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo discussed his start to the season and much more.
How would you describe the start to your season?
Rather good. Not perfect, but good! I am happy and feel good. We lost some points along the way in the league, but in the Champions league, it is fine. It is the beginning of the season and there are still games left to play. It is important to stay calm and to continue working, because we can do better.
We meant your season, not Real’s.
(Laughing) So did I!
At the moment, you are not scoring tons of goals in the league…
It is not my fault if the ball will not go in… It does not stop me from working the same way and from having the same work ethic. Things will change, I am not worried. People are more worried than I am. I am calm, in delta mode, if you know what I mean (makes a flying plane gesture), relaxed, untroubled. Two years ago, I was in the exact same position (3 goals in the league between September 19th and November 28th). Last year, likewise (1 goal in La Liga during his first four matches). And this year, it is happening again…
Does the outcome of the France Football Ballon d’Or vote put you in this state every year during this period?
I am not worried about that. I am 32, going on 33 (on February 5th). I know how to put things into perspective. Sometimes, I am disappointed by what I do during a match. After the game, I tell myself: you can do better. But then when I go home to my family and friends, everything changes. My life does not only revolve around football. There are things that are just as important. As far as the Ballon d’Or goes, I know that the panel is still voting. I am confident. We won La Liga, the Champions league, where I was the top goal scorer (12 goals). If I win the Ballon d’Or, that would be perfect. Otherwise, I will remain the same.
Frankly speaking, do you think a lot about it?
No. I am confident that I can win it, but I am not worried. If you were to ask me if I want to win it, I would obviously say yes. I know what a fifth Ballon d’Or represents in terms of posterity. It would be an accomplishment and that is why have I have been working for 15 years. Nothing happens by accident.
Did you speak to Zinedine Zidane about your drought in the league and Real’s form in La Liga?
Similarly to me, Zidane is not worried. He sees his players’ behaviors. But things change. Nothing is ever perfect. Nobody can be at 100% during the whole course of a season. Especially when it is so long, with the World Cup at the end of it. I am convinced that we will win many trophies this year. Regardless of what people think of me, I continue to eat and sleep the same. It is a matter of patience.
Are you and the other Real players less hungry than in the two previous seasons?
I can understand why some may think that. Over the course of a season, there are moments which are better than others. A season is never linear. Currently, we are in a more difficult period. We know it, and we need to accept it, which does not mean giving up. Once again, things will advance. And we need to do everything in our ability to make them advance.
Can we consider you and Real Madrid, a clutch player and team, designed to step up the in the Spring and during the important times?
One has to be when they play for Real Madrid. It makes sense, all eyes are on us. If Real Madrid lose two games, it is the end of the world. But we are human beings. Sometimes we have our weaknesses. But it feels like people have already forgotten that it was only a few months ago that we won two major trophies. We beat Manchester United in the European Supercup (2-1) and Barcelona in the Spanish Supercup (3-1; 4-2). All while playing well every time.
Could you imagine Real finishing second in their group?
(Cutting the journalist off) That is not important.
What if you draw PSG in the round of 16?
That is not a problem either. I am not scared of PSG. We have been champions for two consecutive seasons. That needs to be respected. I think we have shown that when we need to be ready – we are. We would prefer to finish first in the group. But the most important thing, is assuring qualification.
Did the five game suspension received in August disrupt your season?
I will not try to look for excuses, but I think so. I was very motivated for the beginning of the season. But when certain people prevent from you going on the pitch and expressing yourself… The way that it went down disappointed me, and it makes me sad. I was ready. What happened that day (being sent off in the first leg of the Spanish Supercup in Barcelona after having pushed the referee) was a huge mistake from the referee.
Everyone knows it, but everyone has also already forgotten. I was very disappointed. Really disappointed. Five games for what I did is completely unfair. But that’s in the past, what’s done is done. Now, I am focused on my season. I know that people are used to seeing me at the top of the goalscoring leaderboard in all competitions. But even if I am not as good as I would like to be in the league, I am still the leading scorer in the Champions League this season (6 goals).
Is it difficult to stay focused and consistent during a whole season?
It is very difficult. Staying for 10 to 12 months at the top requires a lot of energy, work and sacrifices. Performances are like cycles. One can never recreate their performances.
Is this because of the tactics? A subconscious loss of concentration?
When you win a lot of titles consecutively, it is normal to let go subconsciously. That is what is happening with Madrid.
How does one manage these more difficult periods when you are not as consistent as usual?
I do not agree with what is said about me. People do not know the difference between playing well, playing averagely and scoring goals. I am perceived as a goal machine, like a person who has to score all the time. If that is not the case, nobody cares to know if I have played well or not. Even if I work for the team, assist my teammates, get involved in team play, no one seems to care. I am not only judged on the amount of goals I score, which is not always the most important thing. I accept the criticism, but I do not agree with it. That is why I try to avoid reading or hearing what can be said about me.
Do you find this unfair?
Yes, but we live in an unfair world. There are people who work like maniacs for peanuts, and vice versa. What can I do to control that?
But you are still partially responsible of this. People are so used to seeing you score plenty of goals that when you go through a period of three games where you do not score, people start to ask questions.
That is perfectly valid. I am not in form, I am unlucky. I do not criticize those who ask questions. What is strange, is that it happens at home too. When I do not score, my mom asks questions, my son asks questions, my sister, my brother too. They ask me “What is going with you?”
As if it were the end of the world. You do not even realize; I have to hear this from my own family. So imagine when it is coming from fans or journalists… But I have no other choice but to accept it. I can not control the world.
This year, have you learned more about taking it easier and managing yourself physically?
Not only this year, but the previous one as well. For the last two years, I have been learning to take it easier, to be more intelligent, to be more patient as well. I work everyday towards that with my personal physio and the club one. The hardest is accepting that with time, you lose that little something, the recovery is not the same, you can not train as hard in the gym as you were used to doing, you can not work as intensely.
Sometimes, it is best to work for shorter time spans to make recovery easier. The most important is the completion of things, the outcome, the way that you finish the season, not the beginning, which people will have already forgotten.
Were you distracted at the beginning of the season by by the chance of a potential World Cup playoff match with Portugal?
I was not worried. We were playing well and I knew our last game was against Switzerland. And even if we had not won, there are the playoffs, which I am used to. I played against Bosnia (2009 and 2011) and against Sweden (2013). It would not have been a problem. It is part of the job. A few hours ago, I spoke with [Matteo] Kovacic and [Luka] Modric, who are concentrated on Croatia’s knockout game. The problem is that a lot of it is impulsive.
Did it ever cross your mind that you may not compete in the World Cup?
Yes. One needs to think of every possible scenario. But I was confident. With all due respect to the Swiss team, who had done really well up to now, I knew that we were stronger than them. The last game was at Estádio da Luz, and we had just managed 9 straight wins. We deserved to be there.
You have three kids at home, and a fourth one on the way (his daughter was born on Monday, nine days earlier than expected). How has this affected your level of concentration and your professional investment?
(Smiling) I will not hide that everything feels a bit different. My home is much more disorganized. It is also noisier. But I love that. I am really happy to be surrounded like I am. I wanted these kids. I will tell you – for me, a life without kids means nothing. I have been lucky enough to have four. When you age, kids will be there to support you. I often said that I want seven and –
Yes. And to take the time to appreciate their childhood moments together. Four is not enough, I want more. Kids are life.
Seven, because of the number on the back of your shirt?
Exactly. That is my lucky number.
If you have seven kids, then you are going to have to win seven Ballons d’Or, so that they each have one!
(Laughing) Absolutely. I want seven kids, and as many Ballons d’Or. That means that I do not plan on stopping. As long as I can play, I will strive to win everything I can. Now, my dream is to win my fifth Ballon d’Or. And net year, there will be another one to go for.