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Ronaldo: The full interview

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Cristiano Ronaldo has spoken at length about his future and this summer's speculation in an interview with Publico, a newspaper in his native Portugal.

Here, with Publico's kind permission, is the full transcript:

Sir Alex Ferguson said this week it was "the end of the matter." Is this true?

"Yes. My coach was kind enough to come and see me in Lisbon a few days ago, which I think is common knowledge. It was a very honest conversation between two people that respect one other and that I'm sure share a mutual affection and friendship. What we said to each other will remain private. Sir Alex listened to me, I listened to him and we established that the best for both sides would be for me to continue at Old Trafford. So, I can confirm that I'll be playing for Manchester United next season. And before there are any rumours about me staying against my will, I want to make one thing clear: whoever says or writes anything to that effect is lying. I'll be playing at United with my heart and soul. I will fight and honour the shirt with the same desire and dedication as I always have."

How do you think the people at Real Madrid will feel about this?

"I want to say that I was the one that was responsible for all this controversy. It wasn't their fault because it was me that said publicly that I wanted to move to Real Madrid. It was also me, although wholly unintentionally, that caused the friction between the two clubs."

Your statements this summer demonstrated your desire to leave United and move to Madrid. What did you actually want?

"I knew that Real Madrid were interested in signing me and that they had, allegedly, made a very substantial offer to United. For a while, I wanted Manchester to accept the offer and for me to move to Madrid. If I denied it I would be deceiving everyone, including myself. Anyone who knows me knows that it would have to be something very important for me to admit such a thing. If there's one thing I've never been - nor do I ever want to be - it is ungrateful. Manchester United - from the Glazer family, the directors, namely David Gill, to the coaches, team-mates and backroom staff - is a club that will always be dear to my heart. Whatever happens in the future, that will never change. I'm very aware of what this club has done for me and I'll be eternally grateful, come what may. But it was because of this, because I knew this club was different and extraordinarily human, that I hoped that my wishes and my reasons would be understood."

What were the reasons that made you want to leave?

"After we'd won the Champions League, I felt that in five years I had helped win everything there was to win. We'd won the Premier League twice and I'd won a host of individual awards, including the best goalscorer in the Premier League, Champions League and in Europe. So I felt that maybe I needed a new challenge. I never hid the fact that I wanted to play in Spain, at Real Madrid in particular, and I thought this could be the right moment. United and Real are probably the two biggest clubs in the world and it would never be an easy decision to make. Apart from the challenge, everyone realises that Spanish and Portuguese culture and lifestyle are more similar. Those were the reasons that made me consider the change."

Nothing else? The attraction of an even more generous wage that Real Madrid are said to be willing to pay, for example?

"I'm aware that, whatever the circumstances, there will always be speculation about me. I knew that there would always be someone who'd say that my main concern was making more money. Others would insist that my vanity couldn't resist being linked to the biggest transfer fee of all time at the age of 23. Of course I am proud to see my work recognised, but none of this had any major effect on what I wanted. In fact, if it was just a question of money, I would never leave United.

"Apart from the reasons I've just given, I also have to recognise that my family would welcome the change. The chance of being an hour's flight from my mother and the rest of my family was very attractive, even more so playing for a club like Real Madrid. I know I have to deal with these circumstances, even though it's difficult sometimes, but it's harder to ask the same of the people I love the most. The best proof of what I've just said is the fact that I've just made a major investment in a house in Manchester, even though I didn't have to. I did it not just for my own comfort but also for those closest to me. The people at United, particularly the manager, understood my reasons. But we all eventually concluded that I should continue to wear that number 7 shirt. It's no sacrifice for me, it's a great honour. I have important things to win in England. I will give everything I have to United. I want to defend the European Cup and help United become world champions, not forgetting the league and other cups."

Are you afraid of the reception you'll get from the United fans?

"No, to be honest. It's possible but I hope it doesn't happen. I know I'm a good professional, I know that no one's harder on me than myself and that's never going to change, under any circumstances. The high point of my career was winning the Champions League. No one will ever erase that from my memory, in the same way that no one will ever erase the fact that I did it in a United shirt. What I said publicly, which was maybe a little naive, I take total responsibility for. People have to understand one thing: at the age of 18 I arrived at a dream club like United. It was a dream come true. But, even at that moment, I was thinking about playing in England for some years and then going to play in Spain. Even at that time I was thinking that way, and I always gave 100% everything. Why lie? I'm not going to be a hypocrite and say the opposite of what I think, like some others do. I said exactly what I thought: I have a dream of playing at Real and I thought it was time to move on. People can't be upset about me fulfilling a childhood dream."

But would it be fair for United to lose you while you are still under contract?

"I'm very aware of what this club has done for me. I'll be forever grateful. United and its fans can be sure that I'll never forget them, no matter what happens. They're special and they'll always have a place here [puts hand on heart]. In fact, I confess that one of the reasons I had the courage to say what I did was the fact that United would be fairly compensated. The figure mentioned, which would be a world record, would serve as some compensation for the debt of gratitude that I owe the club, as least in material terms. I'm going to say something here that I've never told anybody: if we hadn't been European champions I probably wouldn't have even thought about going to Madrid. And there is something else that should be mentioned: I never wanted to leave against United's will. When they turned down the offer, the people at United made it very clear how much they wanted me. I didn't fully understand it at the time, but now I can really appreciate it."

But you agreed with Sepp Blatter when the president of Fifa said that long-term contracts between players and clubs were a form of "modern slavery"?

"That makes no sense, nor do I believe that's what he meant, as he himself has already stated. My comment was about something else. I was saying that players should be where they feel happy. Nothing more."
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Ronaldo: The Full Interview (part 2)

Sir Alex was always intransigent and denied any possibility of a transfer...

"Believe me, it makes me proud to know how much he thinks of me. And he knows I feel exactly the same way about him. He has been one of the most important people in my playing career. Not only because of what I've learnt and continue to learn from him in sporting terms but also in human ones as well. I love the passion he has for football. If it were humanly possible I would like to have him always by my side. Of course it's not possible but it shows how much affection, admiration and respect I have for him. He has always been like a second father to me at United. I'll never forget it was him that explained the significance of the number 7 United shirt, which will always be my shirt. When I was at Sporting I had a number of offers, some of them very lucrative. One of them offered eight million Euros just as a signing on fee and meant that I would play for Sporting for one more year and then leave as a free agent. But money isn't everything. Real, Barcelona, Inter, Milan, Juventus, Valencia and practically all the big clubs were also interested.

"At the time, Jorge Mendes explained that United also wanted me and that Sir Alex Ferguson had told him that he would be very careful with my playing career. So I would play at least 50% of the games in the first season, which is what happened. This shows that I also chose United and that money wasn't the deciding factor. Alongside my agent [Mendes], Sir Alex Ferguson has been the most important person I've ever known in my career. Because of this, because of the special relationship that exists between us, I know that he'll understand that there are times when a father has to worry only about what's best for his child."

The Spanish press continues to say that your future is at Real Madrid...

"There's no point in making predictions. It's not worth speculating because nothing is set in stone and things change all the time in football. Today there are opportunities that no one knows if they will come round again in the future. There are only two certainties: I'll be playing at United, a club I'm proud to represent; Real Madrid will continue to be a great club without me and I will continue to admire them, as I have done since I was a boy. I'm saying what I think and I hope that all the speculation will stop. The press has written some terrible things about me and about this whole thing. They've invented a thousand and one things and that's one of the reasons why I decided to talk about this now. You can be sure of one thing: everything I've said comes from the bottom of my heart and is the only truth."

Which means you don't exclude the possibility the dream of playing for Madrid?

"I'm 100% professional and I've always given my heart and soul to this club. I even played a major part of the season injured, which was verified by my operation. I played in excruciating pain while taking anti-inflammatory medication every day. And I'd do it again if necessary. This club deserves it because the United staff and the fans are fantastic, not forgetting the affection and respect I have for Sir Alex Ferguson. If one day I leave the club, I want to do it knowing that I did everything I could to help the club win as much as possible. If that happens, I'll leave with the feeling of having done my duty to the maximum."
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