Cristiano Ronaldo has admitted that his infamous "people are jealous of me as I am young handsome and rich" quote was a mistake, but he says people have by now got to know him as a normal human being.
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That quote in September 2011 seemed for many to confirm a negative impression of the Real Madrid attacker, but his public image has since been softened among Madrid fans and even neutrals, with his winning of the 2013 Ballon d’Or award welcomed in many quarters.
He told France Football, while in Zurich to receive the award, that the 2011 statement had been made in frustration after he had been unhappy with his own performance in a match.
“It was a mistake,” Ronaldo admitted. “I spoke after a game in which I was very angry because I had not scored. I have said things which I did not like afterwards. As I have said many times, I am not perfect. I am a human being made of flesh and bone, like everyone. I cry, I laugh, I have my problems.”
The now 28-year-old Portugal captain said he felt he had matured on and off the pitch in recent years.
“When I said something I should not have, I apologised to the fans,” Ronaldo said. “With age you learn from your errors. We mature as much in life as on the pitch. I have the impression that the fans understand me better, that they realise that I work a lot. I prefer that they talk about what happens on the pitch than what happens off it.”
His natural will to win meant he was sometimes misunderstood by others, especially when he was angry after defeats, explained the former Manchester United man.
“As I am natural in all I do, I am not always understood well,” Ronaldo said. “My behaviour has evolved, although my personality has not changed so much. I always want to improve and I put pressure on myself for that. I am very competitive and hate losing. I want to be the best, permanently, with my club and country. That is the reason why sometimes there can be misunderstandings. It was like that in Manchester and also in Madrid.”
The infamous quote came after a Champions League group game against Dinamo Zagreb in September 2011, when Madrid had won 1-0, but Ronaldo had been angered by both his own display and some tough tackling from opposition defenders. He then suggested that the reason other players targeted him physically was jealousy at his salary, looks and talent.
“I think it's because I'm rich, handsome and a great player,” he said. “They envy me -- there's no other explanation.”