Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville has confessed he struggled to deal with the ‘erratic’ Cristiano Ronaldo when he first arrived at the club.
Having moved from Sporting CP for £12m in 2003, the Portuguese winger took time to settle at Old Trafford. Despite his evident talent, the then-18-year-old was often criticised for showboating and holding onto the ball longer than necessary.
Despite a rocky start to life in Manchester, Ronaldo would go on to become a superstar of the game, eventually moving to Real Madrid for £80m.
Neville, who would often play behind Ronaldo, says Sir Alex Ferguson and Carlos Queiroz deserve all the credit for sticking by the youngster, describing the World Cup in 2006 as the turning point in his career.
"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 Sports as reported by the Daily Mirror.
"I think that he 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.”
Despite Ronaldo's physical transformation, Neville admits he struggled to deal with the Portugal international’s style of play, and believes the guidance of the coaching staff at the club helped him become the player he is today.
"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."