Sir Alex Ferguson has branded Cristiano Ronaldo the “special player” of his generation after winning both the Champions League, with Real Madrid, and playing a pivotal role in Portugal’s surprise European Championship triumph this summer.
The 74-year-old signed Ronaldo from Sporting Lisbon in 2003 as the pair went on to win three Premier League titles at Manchester United during their six years together, before the Portuguese left for Madrid in a then-world record £80m transfer.
Ferguson was in the crowd the Stade de France final as Ronaldo was stretchered off in the 25th minute following a robust challenge by Dimitri Payet as Portugal secured their first major success, defeating hosts France in extra-time.
“He has an incredible desire for football, Cristiano is looking forward to each workout,” Ferguson told German newspaper Bild. "He always wants to be better, to win. He especially loves these big games.
“During my time at Manchester United, Cristiano was the player who developed the most. Through much hard work. He constantly worked on his shooting technique, with the right, left, his heading ability, his bounce.
“His performance improvement is incredible. And what is remarkable, today's football is so athletic, so fast. Usually top players can only play for about five or six years at the highest level, then it's over.
“Cristiano has been doing this for over 10 years. That makes him so exceptional. Every generation has its special footballer, Cristiano is currently.”
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