Cristiano Ronaldo was made to cry during Manchester United training by Ruud van Nistelrooy, Louis Saha has revealed.
Ronaldo joined up with the Old Trafford side as an 18-year-old during the era in which the Netherlands international striker was the top dog at the club.
The young Portuguese was still developing his game at that juncture and had a reputation for being greedy – something the goal-hungry former PSV striker did not appreciate.
As such, the pair rowed at training, which came to a head when the teenager was experiencing some personal issues.
“Ruud had that kind of ego: he wanted all the passes,” Saha told FourFourTwo. “And sometimes, for the development of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, it was difficult for the manager to deal with.
“Did Ruud make Ronaldo cry? Yeah, there were stories because I think they ended up in an argument at the moment when Cristiano’s father had passed away, so it wasn’t the right moment. Things like that happen when two players have lots of spirit, but I’m sure Ruud regrets some of his words.
“Cristiano was just an animal. I don’t know if you can say that he was a human! You could see from when he was 18 or 19 that this guy was not normal.
“These players who have all the ability recognise that it’s also about working harder than anyone – not just talent. The top seeds in tennis don’t hit the ball better or have better technique; no, they work harder than anyone, and Cristiano did that.”
While Van Nistelrooy, who later played with Real Madrid, might have had a spikey attitude, he had no problems with the France international, despite Saha taking his place in the 2006 League Cup final victory over Wigan – a call made by Sir Alex Ferguson that is rumoured to have hastened the Dutchman’s exit from the club.
“He was always really nice with me; he maybe had a problem with the choice made by the manager, but never with me. He was obsessed about goals, and I respect that,” Saha said.
“I know some people said I maybe pushed him to a move away from the club, but that’s totally b*llocks. He was such a good player – he just had an issue with the manager – and I was maybe good enough for the manager to replace him, but I could have played with him, too.”