Barcelona legend Dani Alves has admitted that he 'loves' former Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo and felt he could not previously express that due to the bitterness between the clubs.
Alves and Ronaldo duelled plenty of times on opposites sides of El Clasico from 2009, when the latter joined Real Madrid, until 2016, when the former departed for Juventus.
The Brazilian recently described the current Manchester United forward as his toughest opponent, and speaking on a podcast with UNAM Pumas teammate Efrio Velarde, Alves opened up on his true feelings about Ronaldo.
"I love Cristiano," Alves said. "Now that we are no longer at Barça and Madrid I can speak, because it always seemed like I couldn’t.
"Cristiano exemplifies, for all of us who don’t have that much quality, that with hard work you can also compete against the best. I respect him a lot and I had the opportunity to tell him.
"There came a time because of the rivalry that I went up to greet him and he didn’t greet me. There was a controversy that never came out, but in the Ballon d’Or dressing room we had a ‘scuffle’, I greeted everyone and he didn’t greet me because of what Barça-Madrid was generating outside."
Alves added that he identifies with Ronaldo more so than former Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi because of their hard work and dedication to reach the top, whereas he believes the Argentine was destined for greatness no matter what.
"How can I not respect a guy who got everything based on work? I identify with him, because everything I did in my life was based on that," Alves said.
“If you made a comparison, as a player, I am closer to Cristiano than to Leo because of the work, not because of the talent, because Leo is a born talent, who was born with the talent to play football and to be in another world that only he achieves."