Cristiano Ronaldo is a fan of the ridiculed bust unveiled at the airport named in his honour after some wrinkles were smoothed out at the Real Madrid star's request, according to the under-fire sculptor.
Madeira Airport was renamed after the Portugal legend at a ceremony in his hometown on Wednesday, recognising the 32-year-old's contribution as a representative of the area.
But the festivities were overshadowed by a bust depicting Ronaldo – which will sit in the arrivals terminal – that was ridiculed by observers for looking nothing like the Ballon d'Or winner.
Sculptor Emanuel Santos' story has since emerged, the 40-year-old explaining he is a former cleaner at the airport and a self-taught sculptor. The bust was his idea and he was paid for the work once it was approved by the relevant parties, including Ronaldo – who proposed a few cosmetic adjustments.
"I had the knowledge that Cristiano Ronaldo's name was to be associated with the Madeira airport and, on my own initiative, I proposed to do a job, a bust that could be associated with the ceremony," Santos told Renascenca.
"I spoke with the authorities and directors of the airport of Madeira, I explained my idea. When I already had the bust in plaster, I showed the directors, they liked what they saw.
"Since this involves image rights and the regional government, there was the need for an opinion. The family had to see it to agree or not.
"Ronaldo's family [saw it] – the mother and the brother. Yes [they approved] and the regional government as well.
"Cristiano saw the photos that his brother sent him. I was with his brother in the museum of Cristiano and, through Ronaldo's messages, I realised that he liked what he saw."
Santos revealed Ronaldo requested some of his wrinkles be adjusted after looking at an early version of the work.
"He only had some wrinkles altered," explained the sculptor, who hopes his work will open doors for future jobs, but would not reveal how much he was paid.
"They gave a certain expression to his face when he is laughing – he asked for them to be smoothed out a little more. He said he was protruding which made him older. But the work advanced because they liked what they saw.
"I spoke to him in the VIP room [at Wednesday's airport ceremony], where there was a little socialising, and he liked it. I asked him what he thought of the job and he said he liked it."
Santos claimed he had not had time to review feedback of his work on social media, but when told it had received a negative reaction, he replied: "The truth is that in any work there are critics. We could not please the Greeks and the Trojans.
"A sculpture is a sculpture and a photocopy is a photocopy. Things are as they are, but you must know how to handle criticism.
"I have friends on Facebook and the feedback has been positive. Of course there are one or two who say it could improve. But it is complicated – this type of complex job cannot please everyone. It is not easy to do.
"Making a public figure is a challenge, this is not making a random figure. It is complicated to see the person's profile, side and back. It is one thing to rely on photographs, another is to have the person next to you.
"Of course [he was never in front of me] he is very busy – when would he find the time?"