On Thursday afternoon Ronaldo was a special guest at the NikeLab in Milan to help celebrate 20 years of the company’s ‘Mercurial’ boots - a iconic brand that broke onto the scene during the 1998 World Cup (with his help) and which is now being revamped through a new limited edition series, officially launched by the Brazilian yesterday (there are only 1,998 pairs available, so if you want a pair then get your skates on). [More info here and pictures here.]
The event however was the perfect opportunity for Il Fenomeno to celebrate another anniversary, Inter’s, and so during the event he sat down to answer questions from television personality Alessandro Cattelan (a die-hard Interista) and then Sky Sport, with topics ranging from his inclusion in the Nerazzurri’s new Hall of Fame, this Sunday’s match against Napoli and his controversial two-year spell with rivals AC Milan.
As Andrea Ramazzotti put it in Friday’s Corriere dello Sport - the place from which the following dialogue has been taken - “his physique is no longer what it once was but his heart remains black and blue.”
Ronaldo, what does it mean for you to be an Interista?
“I wore Inter’s shirt for five years and I learned very well what it means to be an Interista. This is a team whose fans are used to suffering, just like Corinthians fans in Brazil.
“Perhaps they win something, but they’re always put through the ringer along the way.”
You certainly made Inter fans suffer by signing for Milan. In a way you betrayed them; would you make the same decision again?
“I was in a difficult period of my career, I’d been out of action for a while at Real Madrid because of injury problems and I needed to play. Inter were always my first choice and before signing for Milan I called the club [Moratti] directly to find out if they would have me back, but the answer was no.
“I had two options to choose between and I chose Milan. The fact I wore Milan’s shirt doesn’t change my history at Inter.”
Inter celebrate their 110th anniversary today. What wish would you like to send them?
“Lots of good things. Another 110 years of marvellous history, full of great satisfactions like they’ve had so far. This team will always have a place in my heart and as of a few years ago they have one more passionate fan [him, since retiring]; someone who wishes them an exciting future, the best possible.”
Tonight you will enter into Inter’s Hall of Fame. What does that feel like?
“It’s a beautiful recognition, a dream. It really is an honour to be part of this club’s history. I was at Inter during a period in which I was frequently injured and I would have liked to stay for longer. For sure I would have done and achieved more.”
What’s your recipe for regenerating enthusiasm amongst Interisti?
“It’s not a good moment, but the team were really competitive up until December and now they have started to be so again. They can improve for next year and perhaps achieve even greater things.”
What would you like to say to the players?
“That they have the chance to wear a shirt which has a great tradition behind it. It’s an honour and a responsibility for them at the same time. They have to give everything.”
Icardi is being courted by Real at the moment. Would you advise him to follow in your footsteps and move to Madrid or would he be better off staying at Inter?
“You can’t plan or predict what’s going to happen in the transfer window. Icardi has done very well at Inter, he’s a quality player and a lot of teams want him, but I think he’s happy here and I hope he can stay.”
Juventus are on course to win their seventh consecutive Scudetto. Does that... bore you?
“They’re doing brilliantly because they’re very organised at club level and they deserve a lot of plaudits. However I hope that other teams can start winning the Scudetto as well. Perhaps Inter next year...”
Can the Bianconeri win the Champions League this year?
“It’ll be difficult because in Europe there are bigger favourites and better teams than them.”
What kind of match will Inter-Napoli be this weekend?
“Napoli play an entertaining style of football that’s full of quality. It’ll be a tough match for Inter but I hope they can win.”
Are you happy to be back in Milan?
“Yes, it’s always nice to return to a city where I spent an important phase of my life and say hello to my old friends.”
Also present at the NikeLab on Thursday was Monaco forward Pietro Pellegri, Italian football’s 16 year-old wonder-kid who completed a €25 million move to the principality from Genoa during the January transfer window.
Speaking to Gazzetta TV and Sport Mediaset at the event Pellegri revealed that he too is in fact an Interista, something which only made the chance to meet one of their greatest ever players all the more special: “There’s a good scrap for the Champions League this season, but I sympathise for Inter so I hope Inter can qualify.
“Meeting Ronaldo was a great emotion, not least because I only have two idols: he’s one of them and the other is Ibrahimovic. Cristiano Ronaldo is world class as well though - evidently the name Ronaldo brings you good luck in football. Name change? I suppose I could one day...”