Exclusive interview - The real Cristiano Ronaldo: What matters to me? Family, football and money!
Published 23:05 02/07/11 By Jasmine Lennard
From the off, Cristiano Ronaldo is keen to get one thing straight.
The self-styled “world’s greatest footballer” is unhappy that Forbes magazine’s rich list put his wealth at a staggering $160million (£99million).
“That is not correct,” he tells me. “On paper it’s actually much closer to $245million!”
I’m speaking to one of football’s most enigmatic, colourful figures. His career on the pitch is rivalled only by his reputation as a lothario... and matched by his life of fast cars and luxury. And his extraordinary wardrobe – on which he says he spends £8,000 a month.
But, as a close friend of Ronaldo, he has offered me an exclusive insight into his life – and where his loyalties really lie.
“My family comes first – my son is the most important thing in my life,” he says. “After that, it’s the football that matters most to me. Money comes after that.”
For Ronaldo, who recently turned down a £20million-a-year offer from Manchester City to stay with Real Madrid, one-year-old son Cristiano Ronaldo Jr clearly rules his world.
The boy – whose mother has never been named after being paid £10million to give up her legal rights to the child – attends every match his dad plays along with Ronaldo Sr’s mother Delores.
He joins the family on five-star £10,000-a-night holidays, where he’s flown by private helicopter, and he’s always dressed in the finest designer baby clothes.
“He has his own personalised No 7 shirt just like mine and I salute him in the crowd every time I score a goal,” says proud Ronaldo.
“But I’m very security conscious. Nobody ever sees him in the stands and security is very high for him at games.
“I’d love him to follow in my footsteps and become a footballer but he can be anything he likes. It’s still a long time off to worry about that.
“I want to keep him from being spoilt with luxuries. He will be taught values and religious values,” Ronaldo says.
The player is so staunchly Catholic he even collects crucifix necklaces, which he says bring him closer to God during games.
“Although I was raised in poverty, he’s going to be raised very rich. But I am not posh, so my son is not going to be posh. I don’t want him to go to a posh school. I want him to mix with normal people.
“But because of my success, I think I’m going to have to send him to private school. I’ll have to choose carefully.
“I was brought up with nothing, we were very poor. I had no toys and no Christmas presents. I shared a room with my brother and two sisters and my parents slept in the other.
“It was a small space. But I didn’t mind. I’m incredibly close with my brother and sisters and we loved being together. For us it was normal, it was all we knew. Everyone around us lived the same way and we were happy.”
But Ronaldo Jr will find it hard to avoid the trappings of his dad’s eccentric life.
The 26-year-old tells me he has spent thousands of pounds having his trademark “CR7” etched into the windows of his £5million Madrid home, and emblazoned on his furniture, sofa, dinner table and plates.
“This is probably the most extravagant thing I’ve done,” says Ronaldo, who became the world’s most expensive footballer after his £80million move to Madrid from Manchester United. He is also one of the richest, with multi-million endorsements from the likes of Armani, Nike and Coca-Cola.
The Sunday Mirror revealed last month that he was being wooed by relatives of the super-rich Arab owners of Manchester City
He says: “If I went from Spain it would be to the Premier League – but not now.
“First we have to win the Champions League. If I went back to the Premier League it would have to be with a club in the North West. I don’t like London.”
Ronaldo – full name Cristiano Ronaldo Dos Santos Aveiro – came to the attention of Man United boss Sir Alex Ferguson in 2003 and was signed for £12million.
“It was the first time I’d ever been on an aeroplane,” he says. “This was when I knew I had made it as a footballer.”
Life was basic for the Aveiro family. His mother Dolores, a chef, and father José, a municipal gardener, lived incredibly humbly. His mother, who is his rock, raised him strictly and religiously but with a lot of love.
Ronaldo admits that, although he wasn’t spoilt with material possessions, he was spoilt with affection.
But his school days are ones he looks back on with little emotion.
“I was quite popular in school but I’ve not kept in touch with one person. I was not thick but I was not interested in school. I was expelled after I threw a chair at the teacher,” he explains.
Why? “He disrespected me.”
Dolores, despairing at her son’s wayward behaviour, decided he should focus entirely on football. “People knew I was a talented kid. When I got to 14 I felt I had potential. I thought I was maybe good enough at that time to play semi-professionally.
“It was not until 22 when I was at Manchester United that I started to believe I was the best.”
Ronaldo has just had one of the best seasons of his career at Real – scoring 53 goals and becoming the first player to win the European Golden Boot for the top scorer in two different leagues.
I ask him what he thinks sets him above the rest. “Because I’m determined, I’m strong, very quick, I’m very, very professional.”
Ronaldo tends to shun parties in Madrid. Instead he prefers to spend time at home with friends.
“Half the boys like to go to the disco. They like to try to f*** lots of different models, they like to party hard, they like to try to impress girls with champagne. But it’s better to train hard and do well. That’s why in England the youth players are very bad. In Spain they’re more professional – the youth players are better.”
And despite his well-documented dalliances with a string of glamour models including Nereida Gallardo, Ronaldo – whose current beau is high-end model Irina Shayk – tells me: “I hate glamour models.”
But surely he’s entertained a few? “NO!” he insists. What turns him off in a woman?
“Girls who do glamour. Girls who get off their face on alcohol, girls who are shallow. Girls who dress with their boobs out on show all the time and try to be hot, I find these types pathetic.”
So what does turn him on? “A girl who is clever, intelligent, someone that just looks... pretty – that’s my type. I prefer girls who are normal to rich girls.”
I ask him who would be his perfect date. “It’s hard to think of a suitable match for the hottest man in the world,” he laughs.
Then he names Cheryl Cole. “I’d like to take her for a hot chocolate,” he chuckles.
I ask him if he knows her ex-husband Ashley and he replies: “No, but I do know Michael Essien (Cole’s Chelsea team-mate).”
He says he doesn’t really mix with other footballers: “I don’t know David Beckham. I’m great friends with Rio Ferdinand, he’s a real laugh, and I chat to Wes Brown. Wayne Rooney and I speak now and then – that’s pretty much it.
“I have my circle of friends, my club. People who’ve been with me a long time. I look after these people. I take them to five-star hotels, I pay for private planes, I pay at the bar. I never drink in public. I drink Red Bull while I buy my friends champagne at £1,000-plus a bottle. It’s no problem – I like my friends to be happy.”
Ronaldo takes huge pride in being able to support and spoil his friends and family.
“I bought my mother a £400,000 house in Portugal, she lives there with her partner and my son. I bought my sisters houses as well.”
Ronaldo is also a shrewd businessman, creating an extensive property portfolio – with his family taking control of it.
“I sit on my money,” he says. “I earn £400,000 a week but I can’t spend it all, it just gets bigger. My brother runs my nightclubs and various bars. I also own a hotel. But money hasn’t changed me – I’m still the same person.”
While Ron is incredibly generous, he likes to spoil himself too. He takes huge pride in his appearance, admitting he easily spends “£8,000 a month on clothes” and enjoys “collecting shoes”.
He effortlessly models Armani boxer shorts in its current ad campaign alongside Megan Fox. As for wearing the same pair twice? “No need,” he says. “Armani give them to me for free.”
Ron also recently spent £13,500 a night on a holiday in Miami for himself and his family and friends and spends and “maybe £180,000 a year on private plane flights”.
He’s also just bought two new cars, a white Ferrari 599 Fiorano and a silver Mercedes McLaren SLR, which cost over £600,000.
And he adds: “I collect crucifix necklaces – it’s because of my relationship with God.
“I always had a gift. I was shown the skills and I am a fantastic footballer but I do believe God gave me the gift.”
Ronaldo says his competitive streak often sees him challenging other sportsmen in their own fields – and is currently determined to beat today’s Wimbledon finalist Rafael Nadal at tennis. “I have already come incredibly close,” he claims.
He also loves gambling websites. “When I first joined Manchester United, I’d never even heard of the internet. Now I spend maybe 15 to 20 hours a week browsing.
“I’m a target for casinos and I get invited to celebrity tournaments. But I prefer to play online or among friends.”
In public, Ronaldo comes across as a cheeky chancer – often misconstrued as arrogance. But when you get to know the real person, like I have, besides his sometimes fierce temper, he also has an incredibly sweet side. He has a huge heart and wicked sense of humour – he’s just a kid at heart.
Ronaldo admits: “I often feel misunderstood. I am a very private person and am down-to-earth.”
Although he rarely shows signs of emotion, it is clear how much he misses his father José, who died when Ronaldo was 19. There is huge sadness his dad was never able to share his success.
“My father was an alcoholic. He died of alcoholism. He would never have known what I was to go on to do. Of course, he knew I was talented but you get many good players who go to England.
“But it’s really hard to go to any country and be the best.”
What would Ronaldo have become if not a footballer? “I don’t know... a waiter?” he laughs.
Although I do recall an occasion where he told me he would have been President, he’s seemingly more bashful now... “A model, maybe?”
Just not a glamour model...