After this Ronaldo was a better goalscorer - Meulensteen

Balon d'Or winners like Cristiano Ronaldo are the best for a reason. Talent is backed up by an almost obsessive work ethic. Key for self improvement is honesty and willingness to action positive instruction. Coach advice must be relevant, applicable and beneficial even if it highlights flaws. Dutch technical master Rene Meulensteen was tasked with taking a good player, to become a great player. He did it with record breaking effect.


Many things have obviously been written quoting or relating to one the greatest players of our generation. From the first day he arrived at Old Trafford, Cristiano Ronaldo was identified as something special. Recent goalscoring feats at Real Madrid paint the picture of an unstoppable 'natural' goalscorer. As with most things in the game, you get out what you put in, exclusively highlighted by the most successful coach in Manchester United's history.


+8 Rene Meulensteen in discussion with Sir Alex at manchester United trainingRene & Ferguson

Rene Meulensteen, the knowledgeable Dutchman, was tasked with taking every 1st team training session during his tenure but he also took time out to help the players who wanted to add some gloss to their game. One player who benefited most from these secret 1-on-1 tutorials was none other than Galactico of Galacticos, Cristiano Ronaldo.

By no means the finished article back in 2003, he was either going to be a coach's dream or their worst nightmare. The glimpses of ability on display were breathtaking housed inside a developing physique equipped for the modern game. So, what was there to fear? Here was a young foreign player (Ronaldo was 17 when he joined Manchester United) who hadn't quite got to grips with piecing together an effective game but was very aware that he was a 'bit of a big deal'.  


Manchester United is about success. As a player you've got to be able to handle that
Champions League winner - Andy Cole to football4football


A club of Manchester United's stature can either elevate or destroy before you know it. Historically young players don't take well to instruction, the ignorance of youth is generally the mentor. That's just for average players, for someone who'd ran an experienced Premier League side ragged, it would've been easy for Cristiano to think all he had to do was put a pair of boots on for things to happen. Ferguson was convinced of his next signing.




Sir Alex was of course noted for his preference to have 'a chat' with prospective targets, a bit of a getting to know what drives the individual session. With Cristiano though, things had to be moved along quite frantically. After 'that' 45 minute performance for Sporting Lisbon he became Europe's hottest teenager. Pure jaw dropping talent started the half-time deal negotiations. The Fergie factor would do the rest. 


Ronaldo is the best I've played with & against!
Nemanja Vidić to football4football


+8 PA ImagesFrom the first game everyone could see Ronaldo was special.Flyer

The process


Ronaldo's introduction to the English Premier League was one of eye rolls and sometimes frustration. Targeted by pundits for going to ground a tad too easily and raising the brows of team-mates for 'over doing it' on the ball. Inside the corridors of Carrington though, they just saw a boy who had a desire to impress and excel.  

+8 Rene Meulensteen and Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United trainingMany have cited Fergie's realisation of Meulensteen's unique coaching abilities as the catalyst for that long period of Manchester United dominance. Team

The football landscape had changed much since Sir Alex guided star pupils like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes to become Champions. Psychological devices of the past would need refining for the young Portuguese to fulfil his undoubted potential. A technical polish was also needed, enter Rene Meuelensteen.

Fergie had long accepted his maximum effect was at a managerial distance so secured Meulensteen to prepare his squad. The Dutchman renowned for thoroughness identified shortcomings lesser coaches would've let slide. This wasn't solely having an eye for detail but also the confidence to engage players with areas of concern.


"He didn't really appreciate scoring goals like Ruud van Nistlerooy" Rene Meulensteen


Manchester United played some fantastic attacking football during his time there but Ronaldo was seen as not taking his chances in front of goal. Well, not as many as he could've anyway. Other 'true' strikers then, like hit-man Ruud van Nistelrooy, always wanted to make keepers work and hit the net in any fashion possible.

It was felt Cristiano only craved goal of the month contenders, where if simple finishes were exploited more goals could be had. Don't get it wrong, Ronaldo was doing some pretty impressive things and could easily have been left to his own devices to see 'how things developed'. That was not in Rene's remit.




Once we (Cristiano & Rene) set the target we looked at how we were going to achieve it!
Rene Meulensteen


+8 Ronaldo strikes at goal playing for Manchester UnitedRonaldo had to work at being more clinical whilst at Manchester United to go on to the next level Erratic

Rene took Ronaldo aside to mutually plot the path to consistent efficiency. His previous best haul was an impressive 23 goals in a season prior to individualised coaching intervention. Instead of him doing what he had done before, just trying to smash it in, Rene steered Cristiano to appreciate the full dimensions of the goal.

Credit to the player here, he took the observations on board and underwent extra training centred around controlled finishing. The end product, a season that saw him break the 40 goal barrier, something Meulensteen had predicted. 

+8 PA ImagesRonaldo with his best player in the world trophy.Reward



Ronaldo, already one of the top players in Europe strived for improvement. Meulensteen developed a philosophy but more importantly translated it with conviction and proven results. It still needed Cristiano's buy in and attitude to stretch himself. This same attitude has seen him go onto great things at Real Madrid, with now a concentrated improvement in his physical performance.


+8 Ronaldo training at Real madridRonaldo has a work ethic that has driven him on to be one of the best players of all time. He understood that technical ability alone wasn't enough for consistent success. Dedicated


"We are very lucky to have Cristiano Ronaldo. His influence on this club goes beyond what you see on matchdays"  - Real Madrid Head of performance


+8 PA ImagesThese days Cristiano Ronaldo is a top performer. Years of hard training and pushing himself means that he can invariably have a positive impact on most games. Star

The Best


No matter how good the player, there's always room improve them. That's the great thing about football, you never stop learning. Top footballers want to take their performances to the next level. The key is having coaches with mindsets that challenge themselves and those are around them. To be the best you've got to want to be the best. It may all sound cliched but think about how many players you've seen over the years who are candles that shine bright only to flicker and fade. The true greats of the game are literally beacons of light the illuminate season after season. In a day of extreme wealth for the football's elite, the motivation for Cristiano Ronaldo becomes more apparent and commendable. It literally was, start as you mean to go on.




If you don't approach every session with a target of improvement, then it's a wasted opportunity
The football4football training team

+8 PA ImagesRonaldo has always trained hard. He uses every session to get better.Improve



"Cristiano Ronaldo has scaled the heights of football greatness. His talent is matched by desire which meant he was able to fulfil Meulensteen's coaching requirement of him."

The EXCLUSIVE football4football series of interviews with Rene Meulensteen will give incredible insight to the workings of one the game's most respected technical skills coach. Register for FREE. NOT TO BE MISSED!


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