Tomás Roncero/Manu Sainz
Cristiano Ronaldo is currently enjoying his best spell since he arrived at Real Madrid in 2009. He is now the darling of the Bernabéu and he is even booed less and less away from home. He spoke to AS on Monday, the day of his 28th birthday.
Ease the worries of the Madrid support: will your injury prevent you from being at your best against Manchester United next Wednesday?
Everything's fine now. I had a muscle strain on my leg, but now I'm much better. I'll be ready to play against Sevilla and Manchester United.
Today (Monday) you turn 28 years old. What present would you like for the future?
The first present I would ask for is the tenth European Cup, it would be something very special for Real Madrid after so many years of not winning it, and it would be special for me too. The Champions League is the best competition for any player and I am dreaming about winning it this year. I have played professional football for 10 years and I'm proud of what I've achieved, but I still have many challenges ahead. We are going all out to win the Copa del Rey and the league this season, because we know the league will be very difficult.
Ryan Giggs is still playing for Manchester United at 39 years old. You are now 28 and you have an incredible level of fitness. How many more years do you think you have left in elite football?
That's a difficult question to answer, because although I want to play for another ten years, I don't know if I will still be playing when I'm 38. I want to keep playing for many years and I will do it if I feel right, both physically and psychologically. I will work hard to achieve that because I have good genetics. I shouldn't have any problems doing that. They say that after 32 or 33 your genetics change and you change the way you play - you become slower, but you are more experienced. I'm just trying to enjoy my football at the moment, it's a great time for me.
People are now calling you the new Di Stefano. Do you like that tag?
I'm very proud to be compared to one of the greats in the history of Real Madrid, and in the history of football. It's an honour to be mentioned alongside these great names but I am more concerned about keeping working so I can help this club get bigger every day. I don't think about comparisons or records because it's not good for you. What is true is that I always try to please people with my performances. I want to leave my mark on the history of Real Madrid and I will only achieve that if I keep defending this club to the best of my capabilities.
There is now an unbreakable bond between you and the Bernabéu, what has changed?
I'm very happy with the situation. I'm flatted by the endearment I get from the people in the stadium and on the street. I'm very proud to see people supporting me, because they have realised that Cristiano is always the same. I never shy away from challenges, I face them head on. I always give my all and now the fans have realised that. The Bernabéu appreciates me, and sees me as one of their own, like a homegrown player. It motivates me even more when I see the fans supporting me in every game, whether I score goals or not.
On the subject of goals, you have scored 100 goals at the Bernabéu in just 87 games. Di Stefano had the same record. What goes through your head when the Bernabéu sings your name unanimously?
It's a dream come true. When I signed for Madrid in 2009 that was one of my wishes and the things I wanted the most when I stepped on the Bernabeu pitch for the first time. Now the fans have seen me and realised that I will defend this club with body and spirit until the death. I feel very happy with the support I receive from the fans, I know that they love me and it makes me feel good inside. The first time the fans sung my name I went home with the feeling I had fulfilled my dream, because I've always tried to give everything for this club.
When you arrived in Spain three years ago people saw you as a handsome rich bo, as you called yourself after the game in Zagreb. What has changed in you so that people now view you in a different way?
I've always been the same person, but the people didn't have the chance to know me. But now little by little they are seeing who I am and I have realised they are more affectionate towards me. I haven't changed my ways, although there are some things you can always improve at. But my personality has always been the same. I've always defended Madrid as much as possible and now people have taken note of this and forgotten about the other less important aspects. Now I'm very happy that they value me so much, but I'm not surprised because I've always been the same and the people didn't value me as much as they do now.
You have been the victim of fierce challenges and have been dealt some scars by opposition players. Did David Navarro ever call you to say sorry for the terrible elbow in the match against Levante?
No, he didn't say anything to me. But I don't want to talk too much about this subject but anyone who strikes me and gives me a scar above the eyebrow which needs six stitches deserves a strong punishment. But nothing happened here, they didn't even give a foul. It's a shame, it's not a good example for children to see.
This season it seems that, fortunately, chants such as "This Portuguese, what a prick he is" and "Cristiano, please die" are being heard less and less. Are you aware of that? What do you put it down to?
It's true, I have realised that people are insulting me less and less in stadiums. I can't please everyone - God didn't manage that, so I can't do it either. It's not good for children to hear the things they sing in stadiums. It's just a football match and people should be going to a football stadium to enjoy the spectacle and not insult or threaten the players.
Five months ago you said that after speaking with Florentino Perez before the game with Granada you were sad. Has anything changed since then?
Yes, things have changed because I'm doing what I like, which is playing football, and I'm feeling great on the pitch and with my team-mates. Perhaps I have also changed my mindset. Right now I feel better than back then.
The fans think that, aside from winning the tenth European Cup, the most important issue facing the club is agreeing a new contract with you. How is that going?
I won't speak about that, because right now for me the most important thing is winning the tenth European Cup and the Copa del Rey for Real Madrid. I don't want to talk about my new contract and it doesn't worry me at the moment.
Is it true that the money in your new contract is not an issue? You are a professional after all.
Right now I only care about the team and we can talk [about the contract] at the end of the season. I swear on my son's life that my sadness had nothing to do with money.
After the worrying news that has come out about doping, do you think there is doping in football?
It's a very delicate situation. I don't think there is doping in football. It's a collective sport and I don't think it's necessary to resort to doping to improve your performances. But I can't swear that no-one has done it.
So football is a clean sport?
Yes, 100%. I don't think these types of things exist.