Having played at the top level of European level for well over a decade, Cristiano Ronaldo has faced off against some of the greatest defenders the game has ever seen.
The Portuguese forward has played against the likes of Gerard Piqué, Carles Puyol, Fabio Cannavaro, Giorgio Chiellini, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and Paolo Maldini – but has revealed that former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole is the toughest opponent he has faced.
Speaking to CoachMag on a range of topics, Ronaldo revealed that Cole was incredibly difficult to play against, his speed and tackling ability providing a constant source of frustration for the 31-year-old when ever he came up against him:
“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole – he doesn’t give you a second to breathe.
“He was such a tenacious player, quick, tough in the tackle – when he was at his peak.
“You knew it would never be an easy game.”
Cole, who now plies his trade in the MLS with LA Galaxy, faced Ronaldo on a number of occasions while he was at Arsenal and Chelsea, and the forward was at Manchester United. They were also in direct competition at international level as Ronaldo’s Portugal dumped Cole’s England out of both the European Championships in 2004 and the World Cup two years later.
Further into the interview, Ronaldo dropped something of a surprised when he revealed that the person he most admires in football is Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. The two have been competing for the title of world’s best player for years, but Ronaldo insists that the rivalry is not as heated as the media likes to claim it is:
“There is a big mutual respect between myself and Lionel Messi. The media like to make out like we have this big rivalry, but we don’t.
“It is not like we are good friends, but there is a mutual respect on both sides.”
Of course, this being Ronaldo, an opportunity for some self-congratulation was simply too good to pass up:
Cristiano: “Who was the biggest influence on your career?
— Real Madrid Info (@RMadridInfo) October 27, 2016