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Essien takes pride in Salah's achievement for Africa

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Alonso reveals respect for Ronaldo

Xabi Alonso says that his relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo is just "professional", and while his Real Madrid team-mate is a super confident individual he is not a diva in the dressing-room.

Alonso and Ronaldo have been together at Madrid since both joined the club in 2009, and the pair played key roles as Jose Mourinho's side won last season's La Liga title. Despite this success, speculation in the Spanish media suggests the Bernabeu dressing-room is not the most harmonious of places - with Ronaldo having recently revealed his "sadness" and persistent rumours of a split between rival Portuguese and Spanish groups.

Alonso was asked how he got on personally with the Portuguese during an interview with Basque TV station ETB on Thursday.

"I am not close with Cristiano Ronaldo off the pitch," Alonso said. "He is a very ambitious person, with a very strong personality and high self-esteem. He says what he thinks, does not try to cover anything up. But he is a very important player for the team, and inside the dressing room I get on well with him. Between us there is mutual appreciation and professional respect. Obviously not everyone in the dressing-room is my friend, but inside we get on well. He is not a diva with us."

Alonso also said that his relationship with his club boss Jose Mourinho was very strong, and people would be surprised at how the Madrid coach acted away from the cameras.

"As a coach and as a professional I am learning a lot from Mourinho," he said. "He is very demanding and careful with all the details. But on top of that, personally he transmits a lot. People only know his image and the face he shows externally. I know the other side of him, from inside, and because of that everyone is surprised when I say these things."

The Basque midfielder, whose father 'Periko' played for Barcelona for two seasons when Xabi was a young boy, said he had never considered joining the Catalan club, whereas Madrid were interested before he moved from Real Sociedad to Liverpool in 2004.

"I have always had a lot of affection for Barcelona," Alonso said. "Being honest, I have always been much closer to playing for Real Madrid than Barca. Before I left for Liverpool, I was very close to coming to Madrid. However I have never had any offer to join to Barcelona."

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