'I am not arrogant': How Ronaldo mesmerised Dubai on Friday night

Portuguese superstar also said that the Saudi league is better than the French league. "I know what I am talking about," he said in Dubai

by

Rituraj Borkakoty

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Cristiano Ronaldo at the Globe Soccer Awards in Dubai on Friday night. — X
Cristiano Ronaldo at the Globe Soccer Awards in Dubai on Friday night. — X

Published: Sat 20 Jan 2024, 7:40 PM

Last updated: Sat 20 Jan 2024, 10:18 PM

Siuuu (yes, in Portuguese), the iconic Cristiano Ronaldo celebratory cry with the trademark mid-air pirouette after scoring a goal, filled the air in a hall packed with impeccably dressed people on Friday night.

The occasion was Dubai's Globe Soccer Awards at Atlantis which rolled out the red carpet for the who’s who of football, including Manchester City’s Norwegian phenomenon Erling Haaland.

But the cynosure of all eyes was still Ronaldo, the man who refuses to grow old.

Haaland, 23, was a toddler when Ronaldo made his professional debut for Sporting Lisbon in 2002, a year before making a move to Manchester United.

In these two decades, Ronaldo rewrote the record books in world football.

Now, at 38 this Portuguese icon is still scoring goals for fun at Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia.

His 44 goals since turning the world upside down by triggering an exodus of big-name players and coaches from Europe to Saudi, earned him the Best Middle East Player and the Fans’ Favourite Player at the Globe Soccer Awards.

Before the start of the awards ceremony, Ronaldo owned the stage with the power of his words during an interview with the presenter.

In his inimitable style, the Real Madrid legend said he always knew he was capable of changing the footballing landscape in this part of the world.

“I thought it (the Saudi transfer) would be a good move for me. Why not move to a new country with my football, my passion, to change mentalities? Why not? And I am capable of doing that. I am not being arrogant, and I said that one year ago,” he said.

“My move was a good move, I feel happy, many players have moved there (after I moved), the coaches, even the nutritionists.”

Ronaldo reiterated that the influx of big players would eventually help the Saudi league become one of the best in the world.

“It’s a process and it will take long but in life, we always say, if you go step by step, you reach the final stage. So I believe the Saudi League is going to be in the top three in the world,” he said, drawing a roar of approval from the audience.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner then claimed the Saudi Professional League is already better than one of the most high-profile leagues in Europe.

“To be honest, the Saudi League is not worse than the French League at the moment,” he enthused, again drawing loud cheers from the crowd.

“The Saudi league is more competitive (than the French league), I have already played one full year, so I know what I am talking about. Right now, we are better than the French League.”

That self-confidence is often perceived as arrogance by some in world football, but Ronaldo says criticism has always motivated him to become a better footballer and a better man.

“It’s a part of the journey, I am always dealing with that, I have been a professional for 22 years, it’s a part of my journey, to be a better man, a better player, a better father, so it’s good,” he said.

“When people had doubts about me and I proved again that, yes, last year (2022 Man United stand-off), was a little difficult, but I am glad that it happened, because it made me feel stronger, and you can see this season, I am the best goal scorer. I am proud, I am 39 soon, and I am still looking good.”

Finally, the man perceived as arrogant offered great advice for youngsters.

“Belief, hard work and application,” he said when asked about the three key elements needed in aspiring footballers.

“And listen to people who know more than you, who have more experience!”

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