Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the most decorated sports personalities of the modern era.
This summer, his return to Manchester United was by far the most significant transfer story in the past few years.
Despite being well stacked in attacking options, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could not refuse the opportunity to bring back one of the greatest footballers of all time, especially when his side are building towards achieving top honours this campaign.
The Athletic’s recent article explains how it is to manage the phenomenon that is Ronaldo.
Journalists Daniel Taylor and Dominic Fifield talk about an incident shared by Paul Clement, who was the assistant to Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid.
Clement said: “We were coming back from a Champions League away game one night. You’re always late leaving the ground after the doping tests.”
“You get to the airport, and it takes forever for the skips to be loaded on the plane. So, by the time we get back to the training ground in Madrid, it is often 3 am or 4 am.”
“I turn around, and Cristiano is pulling Pepe and Fabio Coentrao towards the main building. ‘We’re going for an ice bath.’ It’s 4 am, and not only is he doing it, but he is also getting others to participate as well.”
“It’s ultra-professional. These are the things he does, over and over. And it’s that compound effect of doing the little things well that has got him to that superhuman level.”
The above example reiterates Ronaldo’s hard work and dedication towards improving in every aspect of his game.
Clement went on to say: “My experience of working with these outstanding players, Cristiano being right at the very top, is that they’re great to work with.”
“They want to train well. They want it to be organised and enjoyable. They want it to be professional. They expect to do their work in the gym before training. They expect the video meetings afterwards. It’s the highest level.”
“Carlo was very good at managing that side of things, being firm but fair, demanding respect in both directions: ‘I’m a man, you’re a man. I was a player; you’re a player. I respect your job; you’ve got to respect my job.”
The two journalists mention Aitor Karanka, Jose Mourinho’s former assistant and his take on man-managing Ronaldo.
Karanka stated: “A player like Cristiano is always different but, with Jose, the team was always above everybody.”
“There were moments when Cristiano scored goals, as he always did, but there were also moments when Jose and the team knew they needed to defend.”
“And Cristiano was the first who defended too. You have to make him see that, apart from all the goals he scores, there are other moments when you need to do certain tactical things.”
A player of Ronaldo’s calibre and reputation must be managed well. At Man United, Sir Alex Ferguson was like a father figure for him, developing him into the player we all know of today.
Taylor and Fifield state how difficult it can get to handle a footballer of his status and ability, especially when the manager himself has a large ego, i.e. Jose Mourinho.
“It helps Solskjaer, of course, that he is an arm-round-the-shoulder kind of manager who tries to tap into the psyche of his players. But Ronaldo will expect the lead role, and that can create its problems.”
“Plus, there are challenges for Kieran McKenna and Michael Carrick as United’s first-team coaches.”
“How do you improve a player who has taken the game to its highest level? How do you tell a five-time Ballon d’Or winner what he could do better?”
“The answer, in short, is that you don’t.”