Cristiano Ronaldo and the inside story of what it's like to play with the world's best
Have you ever wondered what it feels like to actually play with Cristiano Ronaldo? What you go through when the best player in the world is on your team? What you learn from training, playing or even just standing next to the guy who breaks records after records, the guy who is the reigning winner of the Ballon d'Or, the Champions League and the European Championship?
Everyone knows Ronaldo is one of the greatest ever. But expressing what it feels like to play with him is different.
On Tuesday, during his press conference, Portugal manager, Fernando Santos, became frustrated because most of the questions he was asked were about -- surprise -- CR7. He repeated that Portugal was more than Ronaldo, that one player has never won a game on his own.
Santos has a point, of course. Yet, one of the things you get when you play with the superstar is the effect it has on the opposition.
"He is a sort of super X-factor," says Adrien Silva, the Leicester midfielder. "When you are in the tunnel and you look at the players from the other team, you can see that they fear him, that they are scared and impressed. And on the other hand, this feeling boosts our confidence and motivation. You already feel that you have an advantage".
Ronaldo is very much in charge of this Portugal side. "He gives us confidence," says Bernardo Silva. "He always tries to help us, to lead by example. So you just follow him, without even thinking about it. You know that every advice he would give you is the right one. You do what he says without even thinking sometimes. We have so much faith in him. He takes some pressure away from us."
To describe the feeling of playing next to CR7, the Manchester City winger also highlights his mentality. "His mental focus is amazing," Bernardo Silva says. "You feel the ambition and it rubs off on you ... There is no place for failure."
Adrien also expresses the impact Cristiano's demanding nature has on his teammates. "He forces you to raise your game, to surpass yourself. You want to be at his level, even if you know you can't because he is the best player in the world. But you want to put in as much effort as him. It is the example he sets, how demanding he is. So you become as demanding as him. You copy what he does in a way, on and off the pitch."
For Cedric Soares, the Southampton right back, the big difference when you play with Ronaldo is what he does with the ball, especially his scoring ability.
"Everybody knows he is an amazing player. To understand how it feels to play with him, you need to think this way: when one of us gives him the ball, we know he will do something special with it, something different that we would not even have thought of ourselves. And when a chance comes his way, we know he will score. I think: 'It's Ronaldo, he will score' and I don't even need to look. I know. Other strikers, they will need more than one chance to score. Not him. He almost gives you some peace of mind because you know you just need to create one chance for him."
And that, in short, will be what Portugal hope happens for the rest of this World Cup.
Julien Laurens is a London-based French journalist who writes for ESPN FC and Le Parisien. Follow him on Twitter: @LaurensJulien.