Cristiano Ronaldo’s impact on football should never be dismissed, according to Morocco coach Herve Renard.
During a glittering career, Ronaldo has broken multiple individual records and the Real Madrid star has also won the Ballon d’Or five times – the same number as his Barcelona rival Lionel Messi.
Renard will come up against Ronaldo at the World Cup when Morocco take on Portugal in the group phase in Russia and he is full of respect for the 33-year-old.
“Ronaldo? There are not two players like him,” Renard told Goal. “Or, maybe there is Ronaldo and Messi.
“Of course, everyone has his own tastes but, for me, he is one of the best players in the world. It’s important to not minimise his impact, but to evaluate, analyse and give to him all the importance that he deserves.”
Morocco will be taking a strong squad to Russia, with the likes of Medhi Benatia and Hakim Ziyech expected to be involved, but one player who is tipped to be a future star is Ronaldo’s Madrid team-mate Achraf Hakimi.
The 19-year-old has played sporadically alongside Ronaldo at Madrid this season, making 15 appearances in all competitions at right-back, and Renard has praised Hakimi’s attitude.
“Yes, he has made an exceptional journey. He plays for Real and has already had some games in the starting XI with Morocco, which is huge for his age,” Renard said.
“What I like about him especially, besides what he shows on the pitch, is that he has remained the same. He is a humble person. He does not think of himself as a star. His attitude remains admirable whenever I see him.”
Morocco will face Iran in their opening World Cup fixture, before meeting Portugal and Spain, and Renard is focusing on making it to the last 16.
He said: “The order of the matches doesn’t really matter. For us, what matters is getting out of the group stage. It does not matter who we face first or last.
“Personally, I have been at a few African Cup of Nations and I know we sometimes had slow starts and then ramped it up. And the opposite can happen, too.
“So, there is no truth, no general rule. The important thing is to finish in the first two after the third matchday. Nothing else. The rest is only philosophy.
“I will not hide from you that if we the leave the World Cup after the first round, it would be a huge disappointment. We go with the desire to make the best tournament possible, not just to participate.”
On facing Spain in their final group game, Renard said: “It’s a great team which has talented players everywhere. In attack, they have [Alvaro] Morata and Diego Costa. They are two goalscorers who play in the starting XI at Chelsea and Atletico Madrid.
“So, I don’t think they miss a big striker. And they remain one of the favourite teams for the World Cup. We must be at our maximum against them.”