How Ronaldo inspires Fernandes to be better
Bruno Fernandes has spoken of the huge influence that Manchester United and Portugal legend Cristiano Ronaldo has had on him, both as a youngster and in recent times.
Fernandes was inspired by the sight of Ronaldo bursting onto the international scene at Euro 2004 and the pair have since become team-mates, as well as good friends. Indeed, Ronaldo advised him to join United when given the opportunity.
Bruno, our Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year, was not involved in Portugal's Euro 2016 triumph as he was still to win his first cap for his country at that point, but he will play a key role at this summer's tournament as his country looks to defend their crown.
During a recent Q&A with United supporters, Fernandes reflected on the 2016 final and explained the impact Ronaldo has had on him.
"Growing up, everyone knows Cristiano was my favourite player," declared Fernandes.
"I think it was a little bit of everything. When Cristiano began to take his first steps in the national team, it was in the Euros in our home country [Euro 2004], so I was nine years old. That year stays with everyone because we lost the final in Portugal, we saw him crying after the final, he was a young boy who was starting to shine and from there I started to watch him.
"It wasn’t because he plays in my position because that wasn’t the case, but it was the way he worked every day, the mentality he had, the capacity he had to give 100 per cent in every game at a high level, for me it was like a motivation, like you always have to do better. He was scoring goals every game, but game after game he was still trying to improve, get better.
"My mentality comes a little bit from understanding what sort of player you want to be. Do you want to be that player who has a good season, and maybe goes up and down, up and down, or do you want to be the player who always wants to be at the top? Okay, you will have bad games for sure, everyone has – Cristiano has had bad games, 100 per cent – but the point is, coming back from a bad game.
"Coming back with the mentality that is, 'okay I didn’t play well in that last game and I really need to do well in this one'. The mentality to do better day after day is really important for me. I’m improving a lot because of this, and that was my biggest motivation.
"There are a lot of matches that have inspired me," he continued. "If you watch, in the world of football, the final of the Champions League, of the Euros or the World Cups, it’s difficult to choose one.
"But I think, for me, as a Portuguese, the final of the 2016 Euros is an inspiration for every kid. At that moment, I was not a kid anymore but the inspiration for every Portuguese player, for example, because we’d never won anything in the national team. We arrived at that moment against every chance to win that Euros so, as a Portuguese, I’m really proud of that and it’s one of the games I remember more."
Portugal face Spain in a friendly tonight (Friday) and will kick off the defence of the Euros on Tuesday 15 June against Hungary in Budapest.
Fernandes and co. have been drawn in the so-called 'Group of Death' alongside France and Germany and while the United man knows difficult challenges lie ahead, he is, as ever, relishing the fight.
"I think we have a tough group but, at the same time, we know Portuguese people like that the biggest moments are for us because, as a small country, we like to beat the biggest countries we have to beat," he explains.
"I think we have the same chances as them, before the game starts it will be 50-50 but, of course, we know the group is tough. We will do our best, we have good players and a good team and also know what we can do and what we can achieve. We will try, as always to win every game we play."