By Alberto Pinero
Cristiano Ronaldo could have quit football at an early age had he not had the strength and drive to become the best, according to the Sporting talent scout who discovered him.
The Real Madrid star claimed his second Ballon d'Or on Monday after a sensational run of form during 2013, in which he scored 69 goals in just 59 appearances.
The 28-year-old was brought to Sporting as a 12-year-old after being spotted by Aurelio Pereira, who admits that Ronaldo's tough start to his youth career could have seen him abandon football altogether were it not for his strong character.
"When Ronaldo arrived in Lisbon he was only 12, and had a very hard time fitting in," he told Goal. "He cried many times at the beginning. He had left his native land, his family, and came to a distant, large, cosmopolitan city, in a harsh environment, and facilities that are not like what we have now ... imagine how it was for him.
"It was not easy at all, and if he had not been so strong and had I not been so convinced that his dream was to be a football player, he would have been left behind.
"If a guy who isn't so strong had endured those conditions which Ronaldo did in his career, he would surely have left football and have hung up his boots."
Pereira, who says he spoke to Ronaldo following his triumph at the Ballon d'Or gala in Zurich, insists it would be unjust for a player of his ability to have won the prestigious prize just once in his career.
"I spoke to Ronaldo to congratulate him. He was thrilled and very excited, as was I," Pereira said.
"I am very happy for Cristiano. It was unfair Ronaldo only had one Ballon d'Or, being such an important player in the world.
"It is an indivudual prize and Cristiano is the best player, without a doubt. He scored 69 goals, more than the other two [Franck Ribery and Lionel Messi] together.
"He worked a lot to get the trophy. Only he is aware of it; only he knows all the hours he has devoted all of his sporting life. Football is his life."