Charlton backs Ronaldo for more glory

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The Independent Football

Sir Bobby Charlton is confident Cristiano Ronaldo will become the first Manchester United player to lift the Ballon d'Or more than once.

Ronaldo became the fourth United man to collect the prestigious prize this month following his 42-goal contribution to the Red Devils triumphant Premier League and Champions League-winning campaign.

The 23-year-old joined an illustrious group that also includes Charlton, Denis Law and George Best.

And not only does the former England star believe Ronaldo is a worthy successor to the legacy left by United's famed Holy Trinity, he actually feels the Portugal winger will surpass it.

"It won't be the last one he wins," claimed Charlton.

"He is a fantastic player, head and shoulders above anyone else last year.

"I have had to shake his hand more than once for various awards he has won over the past year. He deserves every one.

"He has done it at such a young age and has the world ahead of him. He could be a fantastic player for the next 10 years."

The thought is enough to strike fear into the hearts of defenders across Europe and Charlton will be a proud man this evening when he hands over the Ballon d'Or in front of the Old Trafford crowd ahead of tonight's Champions League encounter with Aalborg.

With his own playing days in the past, Charlton gains pleasure following the fortunes of those charged with matching an illustrious past he did so much to create.

And Charlton admits he still feels a sense of nerve-tingling excitement when he senses Ronaldo is about to burst into life.

"I get excited by watching him," he said.

"If you are struggling a little bit he is a player who can turn a game with one bit of skill.

"I watch sometimes and see certain situations. But before I can even finish thinking about what he should do, he has done it."

Ronaldo has changed immeasurably from the player Charlton first watched as a schoolboy at a youth tournament.

Gone are the needless tricks. Hard work and patience on the training ground have taught him not just how to do the spectacular but when.

"He took my breath away then but he was over the top," recalled Charlton.

"Some of the things he did were just too much and wasn't really effective.

"He has learned when to do these things at the right time. And without doubt, he is still getting better."

In fact, so good has Ronaldo become that Charlton's own grandson wants to be just like him.

Although a fairly humble man anyway, it must feel slightly odd for one of the greatest players England has ever known to go for a kickabout in the garden and find himself facing a Ronaldo shimmy.

"When we go out in the back garden all my grandson wants to be is Ronaldo, with all the stepovers and tricks," he said.

"All kids do it because people love players who do something special. That is why Ronaldo gets compared to George Best so often.

"It is not bad for the game that kids are emulating skill like that."