Cristiano Ronaldo never frustrated his team-mates at Manchester United, insists Eric Djemba-Djemba, despite being the complete opposite to David Beckham as he “loved the tricks”.
A Portuguese youngster inherited the fabled No.7 jersey upon his arrival at Old Trafford in the summer of 2003.
He was asked to follow in some illustrious footsteps, including an England captain who once graced the right flank for the Red Devils.
Ronaldo quickly became much more than a wideman, but to start with he was a direct winger who loved trying to bamboozle opponents with his quick feet.
Djemba-Djemba admits those around him often had no idea what was going to happen, but that was part of the appeal in a player who was always destined to reach the very top of the game.
The former United midfielder told American Gambler: “The players didn’t find Ronaldo frustrating, he was just young.
“If you look at Ronaldo now versus playing 15 years ago, you can see the difference.
“He was young and that was his game. Sometimes it was hard for [Ruud] van Nistelrooy, [Louis] Saha and [Wayne] Rooney because they didn’t know if he would cross the ball, when you’re waiting for the cross and it doesn’t come.
“But they knew that was Cristiano’s game, and they knew that he wouldn’t cross the ball so they waited for the cross, for Ronaldo to dribble past the defender before he would cross.
“He wasn’t like David Beckham, he would take one touch and whip it in. Cristiano loved the tricks!”
So untouchable was Ronaldo at United that even Sir Alex Ferguson rarely had a cross word for him.
“Sometimes Ferguson would tell Ronaldo ‘no’, but I never saw Fergie angry or unhappy at Cristiano,” added Djemba-Djemba.
“For Ferguson to be unhappy was very hard for him; he was like a dad with his kids! He could be unhappy if we were drawing a game or not playing well. He was like everyone, you can be unhappy because you’re not playing well.
“He never had a go at me; he was like my dad! He was a dad for Cristiano, John O’Shea, [Darren] Fletcher, [David] Bellion, even Rio Ferdinand!”
Interest in him has built to the point that he is now one of the most recognisable personalities on the planet, but Djemba-Djemba claims to know the real CR7.
He added: “People can watch Ronaldo on the television, but they don’t know the real Cristiano.
“Cristiano is a man, who had a difficult time as a kid in football. People see him on the television and think he is arrogant or takes the piss out of people, but Cristiano is an emotional man.
“You need to talk to him to see who he really is. My mum passed away and he said Eric if you need me, you can call me, you can visit me, don’t worry I am here for you.
“Every day when we were together at United, we drove to training together. Sometimes we would drive in my car; sometimes we would drive in his car. After training we went to eat at Nandos in Manchester; he helped me discover Nandos!
“When we went to away games, we were roommates. He was my best friend. We were together every single day for training; sometimes I would go to his house to eat as his house as his mother was there with him when Cristiano was young. Sometimes he would come to my house to eat, as I was living alone in Rio Ferdinand’s old house!”