Rony Lopes need look no further than “complete” Cristiano Ronaldo for inspiration as he endeavours to enhance his career with Monaco and Portugal.
The highly-rated playmaker has registered on the European football radar for some time now, with Manchester City having spotted his potential early on at Benfica.
He would become City’s youngest ever goalscorer while at the Etihad Stadium – having netted in an FA Cup meeting with Watford in January 2013 at the age of 17 years and nine days – but picked up most of his senior experience while on loan at Lille.
It was his showings in France which convinced Monaco to make a move in the summer of 2015 and patience has been rewarded at Stade Louis II with a breakthrough campaign in 2017-18.
Lopes is now a proven performer on Ligue 1 and Champions League stages, while senior international recognition has come his way on the eve of World Cup 2018.
It could be that the next step taken on a positive learning curve sees the 22-year-old lining up alongside the likes of Real Madrid superstar Ronaldo on a more regular basis for Euro 2016 winners Portugal.
Lopes would certainly welcome the opportunity to spend time working with a player he holds in the highest regard, telling Goal of an illustrious countryman: “For me, he [Ronaldo] is the best and the most complete. He plays well with his head, left foot and right foot.
“What is beautiful is that he works every day. He has already won five Ballons d’Or and continues to work. Frankly, we have to congratulate him for that because what he has been doing for 10 or 12 years in football is incredible. It’s a source of inspiration at every level.”
Lopes is aware that he has some way to go in order to get close to Ronaldo, but has set about that challenge in the best possible manner this season.
The most productive campaign of his career to date has delivered 15 goals across all competitions, with the Brazil-born midfielder conceding that, while he still has much to learn, he is starting to show his true colours.
“Individually, I think it’s been a very positive season for me,” he added.
“I managed to do good things, like my first game in the Champions League, my first goal in the competition and be called up to the national team for the first time. I scored goals and assists so I like my season even if it is not over and we still have one game to play.
“I am still a young player. I still have a lot to learn, that’s for sure. I learned a lot this year.
“A while ago someone in Portugal told me the same thing: ‘We hear about Rony for several years but he is still young, he is only 22!’ And it’s true that some people have heard about me since I was 15 so they consider me to be an experienced player now. I have some experience, but I still have a lot to learn.”
Lopes is aware of the areas he needs to work on, with there a desire on his part to be a dual threat in the final third of the field by contributing as both a creative influence and goalscorer – much like Ronaldo.
He added: “Since the beginning of the season I knew what I needed to improve. I knew I had already played good games but, today, if you do not score or do not make assists nobody will talk about you.
“That’s why at the beginning of the season I tried to see what I was not doing well and why I was not scoring enough. I worked with the coach and with a mental coach. Until now, 2018 has been a beautiful year for me. Even if I’m not a striker, I want to be a player who scores goals and makes a difference.”