Cristiano Ronaldo was “frustrating in the beginning” at Manchester United, admits Darren Fletcher, but “single-mindedness” allowed the Portuguese to become “the best player in the world”.
The Red Devils snapped up a sprightly winger from Sporting in the summer of 2003, with an eye-catching pre-season outing convincing Sir Alex Ferguson that a hidden gem had been unearthed.
United were happy to hand Ronaldo the No.7 shirt vacated by club legend David Beckham, with it clear from the start that big things were expected of him.
He was, however, something of a show pony at that stage and needed to have teamwork and end product drilled into him.
Ronaldo’s willingness to learn saw him soak up the advice, with the youngster making no secret of the fact that he intended to become an all-time great.
Said standing has been secured across spells with United, Real Madrid and Juventus, with five Ballons d’Or added to an enviable collection of individual and collective honours.
Fletcher is not surprised to have seen Ronaldo soar so high after using a spell at Old Trafford as a springboard.
A former team-mate of the Portuguese superstar told The Lockdown Tactics podcast: "He was probably thankful of coming into that environment because it made him a winner.
"Ronaldo, as a young boy, he basically got chucked on a plane after a pre-season game because of how well he played against us and a week later he was in Manchester."
Fletcher added on the traits which made Ronaldo special: "He learnt English so quick, he was 18, he did extra training every day, he was the first player to go and get a personal chef.
"He brought in ankle weights to train in so in a game he felt sharper when he took the ankle weights off."
"What a guy. He was determined to be the best player in the world.
"When you see his ability… yeah, he was frustrating in the beginning, he was a young, skinny lad, [but] the dedication and effort he put in, that single-mindedness [allowed him] to go and become the best player in the world."
Ronaldo is still going strong at the age of 35, with the dedication he has shown to his craft down the years suggesting that he has many seasons left in him despite approaching a stage of his career where many start to slow down.