Cristiano Ronaldo said on Wednesday that his exit from Manchester United following a second stint at Old Trafford represented a “bad phase of his career.” But stated he is a better man now.
The Portugal international, who is back playing for his country in a pair of Euro 2024 qualifiers, moved to Saudi club Al Nassr in January after becoming a pariah at United following an interview with Piers Morgan in which he was highly critical of the club and manager Erik ten Hag.
“There is no time for regrets in this life. Even if we don’t do so well, it’s part of our life,” Ronaldo told a news conference before Thursday’s match with Liechtenstein. “When we are at the top of the mountain, it’s hard to see what’s down here and many times I couldn’t. I feel like I’m better prepared now because I can see some things. I’m a better man now.
“I think that everything in life happens for a reason. I’m often grateful to go through some difficult things so I can see who is really on my side. At the tough times, you see who is on your side. It wasn’t a very good phase in my life, in my career, first on a personal level and then professionally.”
Ronaldo is back playing international football for the first time since they lost to Morocco in the quarterfinals of the 2022 World Cup. In the interim Portugal hired Roberto Martinez to replace long-time coach Fernando Santos, who parted ways with the team after the tournament in Qatar.
“It was all in the balance after the World Cup,” Ronaldo said of the possibility he would retire after last year’s World Cup. “I reflected with my family and then we came to the conclusion that it was not time to throw in the towel.
“I learned a lot from it and I’m very happy to be back. The coach says he wants me in the squad. I feel that I still have a lot to give and I want to keep it going.”
Ronaldo is set to break the all-time record of appearances with a national team after tying Bader Al-Mutawa’s mark of 196 outings for Kuwait while playing in Qatar.
“Records are always positive,” Ronaldo said. “They are my motivation. I like to break records and this record is special. I’ll be really proud if it happens, but I want to keep playing even more games, I don’t want to stop here.”