The ex-Red Devils midfielder worked with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner at Old Trafford and witnessed first-hand how much of a team player he can be
Cristiano Ronaldo is famed for his relentless pursuit of perfection, but former Manchester United team-mate Owen Hargreaves says the Portuguese is no “egomaniac” and more of a team player than many give him credit for.
Over the course of a remarkable career, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner has faced accusations of being selfish and caring more about his own end product than that of the wider collective.
His stunning exploits have made it difficult to argue against his approach, with comparisons being made to Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan when it comes to demanding nothing less than perfection.
Hargreaves, though, feels that Ronaldo can sometimes be portrayed in an unfavourable light.
For him, the 35-year-old is merely willing to be the main man if those around him have no desire to take on such a role.
He is, however, able to spot “if you’re good at something” and will happily pass on responsibility to those who prove themselves deserving of sharing what can be a heavy load.
Hargreaves, who tasted Champions League success alongside Ronaldo when United edged out Chelsea on penalties in 2008, told beIN Sports on how he was able to take on set-piece duty at times: “Ask politely, like anything. But to be fair we used to practice all the time and he knew I could take them.
“We used to practice all the time and Cristiano knew I could (score them) and I love that about him.
“I remember we played, I’d scored a couple, and we practiced before the Champions League final against Chelsea that year, he was on one side of the box and I was on the other.
“I hit nine out of ten into the top corner and Edwin van der Sar was in goal.
“And Edwin came to me and said, ‘Owen, if we get a free-kick in the Champions League final you’ve got to take it’.
“I said, ‘I can’t take it off Cristiano, that’s Cristiano Ronaldo’.
“Anyway, we get to the dressing room, we’re warming up to go out on the pitch before we go out, nobody is around, Cristiano walks over and says, ‘Owen if we get a free-kick today it’s yours, I saw you practising’.
Article continues below
“That’s who he was. Everybody thinks he’s like it’s all about him and an egomaniac. But if you’re good at something he’s the first one to see that.
“And that’s why I got to take a couple that year because he knew I might score. I admire that about him, I really do.”
Ronaldo found the target in a memorable European clash with Chelsea in Moscow, but would miss his penalty in the shootout and relied on others – such as Hargreaves and Van der Sar – to deliver him the first of his five Champions League crowns.