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Ronaldo: ‘In my day the defenders would beat you up’

Legendary Inter and Real Madrid striker Ronaldo Nazário believes football has changed a lot since he was playing: ‘In my day the defenders would beat you up’. O Fenômeno spoke with La Gazzetta dello Sport and recounted his time on the pitch, the changes to the modern game and how a players mental health is now being taken seriously:

I come from a generation in which they attacked a lot on the pitch. My god, the matches were not like today when there are 15-20 cameras, in a Clásico there are 60, at the World Cup a thousand.

Today you can see everything. In my day the defenders would threaten you, spit at you, step on your feet, beat you up. I grew up as a survivor.

I felt exactly like that. We were like gladiators, warriors, they would throw us into the arena to see who came out alive. The pressure I was under was pushing me down more and more, and such a young guy doesn’t know how to behave, how to deal with such big things.

Today all teams have a psychologist, we were alone, no one was talking about mental health. I struggled a lot, and I learned a lot by getting slapped from all sides. Two and a half years ago I started therapy and it helped me to understand better even what I felt before.

Club Presidents? The best, a school of the highest level. I start from the last one, Andres Sanchez of Corinthians, today a great friend of mine, he revolutionised the club.

I go back to one of the first, José Luis Nuñez at Barcelona, with whom I didn’t get on well, I was only there for one year and it served to make me understand how not to do things.

I had signed the renewal and after five days he changed his mind and tore it up, that’s why I came to Inter where I found Massimo Moratti. I had an incredible, incredible human relationship with him. He was one of the most important people in my life. How he treated us, how he spoke to us, how he cared for us.

I also had a very good time with Florentino Perez, he started the modern era of football, with the ‘Galacticos’ and the development of the commercial area, which until then had never been exploited. He started monetizing the image of the players.

Berlusconi ? I spent very little time at Milan, but I keep great anecdotes. He used to come into the dressing room to tell us how we had to shoot from corners. We hadn’t scored from corners for a few games and he would come and show us how they should be taken.

Ancelotti was an incredible teacher who always knew everything, made us listen. He would say ‘Yes, yes, yes’. Then, when Berlusconi left, ‘let’s go back to our own stuff’.

Pep Guardiola as Brazil coach? I’d love that, I’d be thrilled. I think a European, someone like Pep or like Ancelotti, could do something incredible for the national team and for the Brazilian football industry, he could change the history of our football for the next hundred years.

I watch Serie A and also Serie B carefully, because I am a football fan, but especially because I have a special relationship with Italy. The moment is complicated, but I believe that not all evils come to harm.

The fact that Italy has not qualified for the World Cup twice in a row generates a debate about what needs to be done and I think everyone now has the solution in their heads. The league has to improve and to do that there has to be more revenue, the clubs have to earn more.

We need to invest in youth and grassroots football, look for more local talent and find a balance between Italians and foreigners. Serie A for years has been the best league in the world and you know how to do things.

It’s true that the football industry has improved so much all over the world, but Italy has the best quality: passion. People are in love with football and this is the most important thing. Now I see that there are many foreign investors.

It is true that Juventus, Milan and Inter have financial difficulties, but I think there is incredible potential in Italy, and I think things can improve quickly. Whoever invests in Italy today takes the clubs at a great price and their value will grow a lot.”

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Serie A obsessive, lover of 90's Italian defenders, bourbon and wide open highways.
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