Cristiano Ronaldo has denied claims that there is a Portuguese 'clan' inside the Real Madrid dressing room.
Regular reports in Spain have speculated that Madrid's players are split into two groups, with a Portuguese faction including Ronaldo, coach Jose Mourinho and players represented by super-agent Jorge Mendes, and another centred around Spain internationals Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso.
This idea was rejected on Thursday by Alonso, and Ronaldo has now told the Spanish edition of GQ that he has friends throughout the club.
"I have many friends in the Real Madrid dressing room, not just my countrymen," Ronaldo said. "Obviously, at the start I hung around with people like Pepe and Kaka because we have a language in common, but that does not mean there is a 'clan'."
Such issues have arisen this season as Mourinho's side have fallen 16 points behind leaders Barcelona in the La Liga table. The breakdown in the Portuguese's relationship with the media led to AS conducting a recent poll with Madrid fans that found the majority wanting Michael Laudrup as their next manager.
Ronaldo accepts that a club as big as Madrid are inevitably held to such high standards.
"Real Madrid is the biggest club in the world," he said. "People expect us to always be perfect. [But] I believe there is always room for improvement."
There was no problem with media or fan criticism of sub-standard performances on the pitch, Ronaldo said, but negative speculation about off-pitch matters "hurt" more.
"Criticism is a part of our business, we need to live with it," he said. "What hurts most is criticism for things which take place off the pitch. It does not bother me when it is about my way of playing, because I am the first to remind myself when I slip."
Ronaldo said part of this commitment to self-improvement involved regularly watching his own matches back afterwards to find things in his own game to work on.
"Not all of them, but the majority," he said. "It is useful to me to look back over my game to recognise where I could have done better."
The Portugal international said he followed his own personal training regime to ensure he could give his best on the pitch.
"I follow a 'core strength' training programme," he said. "It includes elements of balance and stability, I work on the abdomen, the lower back and all the torso muscles. We train in the morning, I do exercises in the gym in the afternoon."
Ronaldo said he had committed himself to his life in football since before he could remember and hoped to remain within the game after his playing days were over.
"I have absolutely no memory of my life before I discovered football," he said. "I always carried a ball with me, at school, on the street, everywhere. I would like to remain in this world, even after I have finished playing. For the moment, I am going to concentrate on the years I have left as a player. Time will tell what will happen afterwards."