Cristiano Ronaldo’s youth coach says he is proud to have contributed to the Portuguese legends’ career but believes he will continue to play for some years yet.
Leonel Pontes was coach of Sporting’s youth team when CR7 first arrived and spoke to Tuttomercatoweb about going to the island of Madeira to see him play, 24 years ago.
Leonel Pontes, regarding CR7’s career, how proud are you to have contributed to it?
“Obviously I am. I am proud to see him as a footballer and as a man. He has managed to become the most important footballer in the world with a great influence on the boys, showing that in life talent is not enough if you don’t cultivate it by working hard.
“And that’s what he did and what he achieved, a child of his sacrifices, of a boy who left his family at 11 to pursue his dream.”
How did you and he arrive at Sporting?
“He was 11 years old and I had already received information from Madeira Island. They spoke to me of a very, very strong boy.
“I took the opportunity of a tournament that was held right there and I went to coach with Sporting with the goal to see him live. Unfortunately he didn’t play in that tournament. ”
What did you do then?
“I decided to go to him and try him with our team, to see how he was doing. He showed considerable confidence with the ball, unique individual qualities.
“He was truly one not to miss. And then talking to the youth coaches at Madeira, they told me they had never seen anyone like him. I informed Sporting to get him immediately.”
Can you figure out where a kid can go at that age?
“Yes, because the best players in the world already stand out at 10-11 years. They do different things.”
It can’t have been easy at 11 years of age to leave his parents
“He lived with other boys. He was still a child who had a goal in mind, he was focused on pursuing it. He was very intelligent, and I was also struck by his personality, despite his age. He had leadership.”
Today turns 35. Do you still imagine him on the pitch for a long time?
“I don’t think he will stop. And then in Italy its possible to play up to 40 years of age…”.
Do you want to make a wish for him?
“Continue to give your best, always be motivated. And be happy, above all.”