Jose Mourinho has revealed his admiration for Cristiano Ronaldo, claiming his experience of working with the Real Madrid star is the "highlight" of his career.
"Coaching [Ronaldo] was the highlight of my career," he said. "He's the most professional player I've ever met."
Ronaldo won his first Madrid silverware under Mourinho with the Copa del Rey triumph over Barcelona in 2011. The pair went on to secure Los Blancos' La Liga title in 2012, suggesting their fiery relationship was more than capable of producing results.
Mourinho spoke of his slight troubles with Ronaldo back in June 2013, as reported by Jeremy Wilson of The Telegraph:
A coach and player may have their differences at a given time, but it ends there. I don't have any problem. I had only one problem with him, very simple, very basic.
When a coach criticises a player from a tactical viewpoint trying to improve what in my view could have been improved.
And at this moment he didn't take it very well because maybe he thinks he knows everything and the coach cannot help him to develop anymore.
Despite allegedly failing to take criticism, Ronaldo has been in prolific form this year and should be seen as one of the front-runners for the 2014 Ballon d’Or.
Does Ronaldo deserve to win the 2014 Ballon d'Or?
His 24 goals in 17 games this season—which includes three hat-tricks—highlights a star who continues to improve, per WhoScored.com.
Ronaldo has scored in 13 of his last 15 matches and will hope to build upon his enthralling relationship with Gareth Bale.
The pair have linked excellently since Bale's return to fitness and will be anxious to claw back the six points currently needed to catch Barcelona at the top of La Liga.
Sir Alex Ferguson, Mourinho's longtime rival and friend, also claimed Ronaldo was the best player he ever worked with in his recently released autobiography, reported by Jack De Menezes of The Independent:
"Cristiano was the most gifted player I managed,” Ferguson wrote. "He surpassed all the other great ones I coached at United - and I had many."
Such unequivocal praise from two of football's greatest managers shouldn't be rebuffed. Ronaldo has worked incredibly hard to hone his natural talents and remains a pivotal player for Madrid and Portugal.
The 28-year-old will need to flaunt all of his attributes across the coming week, which pits the national side against Sweden in a World Cup qualifying playoff for a place in Brazil.
This tricky tie could see the former Manchester United man miss out on a place at next summer's competition, a failure that would hugely disappoint the world of football.