Diego Forlan writes a weekly column for The National, appearing each Friday. The former Manchester United, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid striker has been the top scorer in Europe twice and won the Golden Boot at the 2010 World Cup. Forlan's column is written with the assistance of European football correspondent Andy Mitten.
Not long after Cristiano Ronaldo joined Manchester United in 2003, my father travelled from Uruguay to watch me play. He saw a couple of games at Old Trafford and he was allowed to watch us train at Carrington. Dad was a former professional footballer and remained very interested in how the game was changing. He wanted to watch my progress, too. The manger, Alex Ferguson, was good with him, he even tried to speak a few words of Spanish.
After a week in Manchester and one training session, my father pointed at Ronaldo and said: "Diego, when this young guy starts hitting the target, he's not going to stop."
He had been watching Ronaldo, who, like me, trained even after training had finished. We were both dedicated to being as good as we could be. That meant shooting practice a lot of the time. Practice makes perfect, I learnt that as a young boy kicking a tennis ball against a wall. That helped me be two-footed.
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Ronaldo would hit the ball from distance, but, unusually, he would hit it upwards into the roof of the net. He didn't curl it around a training wall, but struck the ball true, hard and fast. Most would not go in the goal, but some did. That is what prompted my father to offer his opinion: he picked Ronaldo out above all the other very good players at the club. And he was right.
I was asked to translate for Ronaldo when he arrived in Manchester from Portugal as he couldn't speak English. Him and the Brazilian Kleberson were the new arrivals. Another Brazilian, Ronaldinho, was going to come to Old Trafford, and I would have translated for him, too, but he went instead to Barcelona, and didn't do too badly.
Ronaldo was a nice guy and still is. We have always talked when we have played each other. That early drive he showed at United took him a long way - not many players are considered the best for two different Uefa Champions League winning clubs.
We didn't socialise much, but I would see him at Mottram Hall, a country hotel close to Manchester, where I played golf. Ronaldo would be there playing pool, usually with his brother who would visit from Madeira. He was very competitive and probably wanted to win at pool, too. That competitive spirit and drive made him the player and person that he is. It took him to the top, one of the best two players in the world with Lionel Messi.
Ronaldo's drive, ego and desire to be the best are not for everyone, and not everyone likes him. But they are attributes which have helped him. I would advise any young player to look at some of his other attributes: his dedication, his professionalism, his eagerness to improve. You don't hear about him away from football for the wrong reasons. He has remained dedicated to the sport he has served so well and never lost focus, never lost his hunger to keep improving, even after all those trophies.
There is one part of his game that I wish he would not have changed. When I played with him and in his first years at Real Madrid, he used to go past players for fun, like Messi. Now he is more of a finisher, a killer in front of goal. Messi has that too, but he also has the ability to go past two or three players and change a game.
Ronaldo is not enjoying the best moment of his career this season. He is not averaging a goal each game like he has been in recent years. It happens. Every footballer has ups and downs. I was still surprised when some Real Madrid fans booed him against Athletic Bilbao last weekend for missing a chance and also against Cultural Leonesa in the Copa del Rey. I don't think that is fair.
Ronaldo's been a huge success for the club, the best player in a side which has won two Champions Leagues - the most important trophy at the Bernabeu. He has won the Primera Liga and the Copa del Rey, too. Madrid would have been far weaker without him the last seven years. Their fans are fortunate to watch him play.
You expect rival fans to boo him because they want to unnerve such a brilliant player. That is a mark of respect, but being booed by your own fans is completely different and it is the last thing that any player wants. You need your own fans to be supportive, to believe in you when things are not going great, to help lift your confidence. Isn't that what the word "support" means?
Some of those fans booing should ask themselves: Are they 100 per cent every single day at work? Would they like to be booed in front of others when they are not? Humans make mistakes, they have bad days.
Ronaldo doesn't always help himself. I was laughing at his reaction when Alvaro Morata scored a late winning goal against Athletic. He appeared to put his arm up as if the goal was offside. A Catalan TV station made the most of that saying he was unhappy that his own team scored. It didn't look good and he was criticised on social media, but that was unfair. I think he was celebrating.
Ronaldo is still a great player. He loves football and I hope the criticism is motivating him to prove people wrong. Because he will.
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