Cristiano Ronaldo is “the absolute number one” in the eyes of former Juventus team-mate Medhi Benatia, with the Moroccan defender wishing the Bianconeri star well despite his own acrimonious exit.
Those in Turin had been enjoying another productive campaign in 2019-20 before football entered a state of indefinite lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Ronaldo was once again leading the charge for Juve, with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner recording 25 goals through 32 appearances.
The Portuguese is now 35 years of age but he is showing no sign of slowing down and continues to enhance his reputation as one of the very best to have ever played the game.
“He is the absolute number one, as a footballer and as a person,” Benatia told Goal of Ronaldo.
“He is very intelligent, even off the pitch. His brain is always faster than anybody else. I am happy to be his friend. I always wish him the best.”
Benatia formed part of the Juventus squad when Ronaldo was added to the ranks during the summer of 2018.
The 32-year-old defender was, however, ushered through the exits in January 2019 as a move was made to Qatari outfit Al-Duhail.
Explaining that switch and the role ex-Bianconeri boss Massimiliano Allegri played in it, Benatia said: “Allegri is a great coach and a great person. I had no problem with him or anyone else. But he made promises to me that he didn't keep.
“In pre-season in the States, the coach told me that I was going to start with [Giorgio] Chiellini. And that [Leonardo] Bonucci would have to earn his place. Leo is a champion, but it was expected that I would start and, perhaps, at the first mistake someone else could have played in my place.
“At that moment things were going pretty well for me. I scored two goals in the Italian Cup final and we were talking about a contract renewal. After that, I found myself making four bench appearances without playing even a minute.
“Then, apparently, Allegri had made fun of me. I started to lose my mind and I told him that I would never play for Juve again while he was the coach.
“But with the club I have an extraordinary relationship, we are still in touch and I'm happy to have been able to work with these people, because it's the best you can aspire to.”
While disappointed to have bid farewell to Turin in such a manner, Benatia insists he has no regrets at how his career has played out.
“No, I don't have time to think about regrets,” he said.
“I don't like looking back. I don't like to say ‘I should have done this or that’. I'm happy, that's okay. It could have been much worse. So, no regrets for my life.”
Benatia tasted league title and domestic cup successes during his stints at Bayern Munich and Juventus, while also collecting 58 caps for Morocco.