Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville believes Cristiano Ronaldo is targeting Pele’s goalscoring record, calling the Juventus forward’s drive ‘out of this world.’
The Sky Sports pundit spoke of the time he shared with CR7 in Manchester and the role the United manager and his assistant had on the Portugese legend.
“Sir Alex Ferguson and Carlos Queiroz, I think it’s important to put Carlos Queiroz in the category with Sir Alex, they were both champions of him, they both believed in him,” Neville told Sky.
“I think that Ronaldo came back from the World Cup that summer it was like everything had changed. His maturity and his decision-making, which was a big thing, his experience, his physical attributes had completely changed overnight.
“He went from someone who, if you look at his early pictures at Manchester United, he was scrawny, really thin, wiry, didn’t look very strong.
“All of a sudden, I think it was after that 2006 World Cup, he came back like a super-middleweight boxer. His body had just completely transformed, he was absolutely incredible.
“From a strength point of view and a plyometric point of view, the ability to leap, the ability to score with his head, the ability to change direction, everything seems to fall into place. It was just a maturity, physically, mentally, everything happened to him.
“It was brilliant to watch, there was a point I remember going into the gym after one training session and speaking to Mike Clegg [United’s strength and conditioning coach] who worked very hard with Cristiano physically in the gym and saying to him, ‘I don’t know what he’s going to do next’.
“You didn’t know where he was going to be defensively, you didn’t know when he was going to release the ball, players in the middle of the box didn’t know when he was going to cross it. It was just erratic.
“But they had great faith in him, Sir Alex Ferguson and Carlos Queiroz, and they believed in him, put him forward in front of players who had greater reputations at the time and he developed into something brilliant.
“His drive was out of this world to become the best in the world. He’s one of the very few players that I’ve played with that would publicly announce that the individual trophies were important to him.
“He just wanted to be the very, very best in the world and it’s so important to him.
“It’s an obsession. Absolute obsession with scoring goals. Applying himself every single day, being the fittest he can possibly be. I think he’s lifted his professionalism every single year and progressed.
“Jamie [Carragher] mentioned before about James Milner wanting to play into his late 30s and 40s. I think he [Ronaldo] has a plan to go on and take over Pele’s record.
“I genuinely believe he wants to go on and beat Pele’s numbers.
“That’s where I think he’s at in his mind, he wants to be the greatest of all time, that is his sole purpose, understanding that along the way if he is the greatest of all time, the teams that he plays for will win trophies and be successful.”