Cristiano Ronaldo talks to JOE about top coaches, training regimes and his fourth Ballon d'Or
The most recent Ballon d'Or ceremony produced perhaps the least surprising outcome in the award's history.
Not only did Cristiano Ronaldo lead Real Madrid to their 11th European Cup triumph, scoring the winning penalty in the final against neighbours Atlético, but he also lifted his first major international trophy with Portugal.
He contributed towards that triumph both on and off the pitch, netting crucial the opener in the semi-final victory over Wales and playing a major role from the sidelines after injury forced him out of the final early in the first half.
So it was no surprise to see Ronaldo win the Ballon d'Or, the fourth of his career and his third as a Real Madrid player.
“They are all different. They represent different moments," Ronaldo explains.
"To win the most recent always feels special because once you win it you want to win it again and again.
"I am so happy to have won it in 2016 and for the fourth time!”
In addition to the Ballon d'Or, Ronaldo won the Best Fifa Men's Player award for 2016 (photo credit: Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)
The former Manchester United man is speaking to JOE as part of the #RaiseIt campaign from PokerStars, for whom he is an ambassador.
He has been battling it out with basketball star Dwyane Wade, and the pair are just a couple of the sports stars who have managed to transfer their skills and competitive spirit to the world of poker.
Three-time Super Bowl champion Richard Seymour made the money in the inaugural PokerStars Championship event in the Bahamas last month, while golfer Sergio Garcia and tennis player Boris Becker have also been spotted at the felt in the Caribbean country.
And Ronaldo, whose challenges with Wade have been documented in videos such as the one below, is not surprised to see elite sportspeople flourish in a similarly competitive environment.
"To make it to the top of any sport you need to be extremely competitive but also extremely determined and make many sacrifices," he explains.
"I’ve played football all my life and I keep learning.
"Poker is different, I haven’t played it for as many years and I don’t consider myself an expert.
"I’m enjoying getting better and I enjoy beating my friends when we play games.”
While poker can present new challenges, even to those like Ronaldo and Neymar who have reached the pinnacle of their chosen field, it surely helps that the Portuguese remains eager to learn even in football.
There can be a tendency for some players to feel they have nothing more to learn after reaching a certain age or a certain level, but the fact that the Portuguese shows no such signs may help explain why he has been able to continue hitting new heights even as he passes his 31st birthday.
Working with top coaches cannot hurt, of course, and Ronaldo has the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Carlo Ancelotti, Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson among those to have helped him develop aspects of his game.
“It is impossible to pick out one piece of advice, but I am lucky to have worked with amazing coaches my whole career," he admits.
"Each of them sees things differently but each has great knowledge and experience, and I love to learn from them all.”
As well as a respect for coaches, Ronaldo seems to have a love for training that far outstrips that of your average player, as well as a perfectionism which comes across in his #RaiseIt battles with Wade.
But it is one particular training method that really caught the eye late last year.
“This is an important stretching technique," Ronaldo says of the routine.
"I try to keep a thorough training programme with many exercises to support all the different parts of my body.
"You need them all in football so this is just one of many that I do both in training and at home.”
“There are many [exercises] I prefer but honestly, I give my best in every one of them because different exercises serve different and important objectives.
"I try to always be a hard worker on everything I do and training is so important.”
All the #raiseit videos can be viewed on Cristiano Ronaldo and Dwyane Wade's social media channels and at www.nowraiseit.com.
Cristiano Ronaldo is a member of Team PokerStars SportStar