Regular, glowing statements from a player about past glories are rare, particularly from one as esteemed as Ronaldo. Footballers—and sportsmen in general—are typically compelled to look ahead, only ever speaking of the journey to come and what is still to be achieved.
Reminiscing, after all, is viewed as a sign of weakness at the pointy end of sport, an indication that the end is near, that looking forward no longer excites the mind.
But Ronaldo is a little different.
"I love Manchester," he told the Daily Mail this week.
"Everyone knows that—I have said it many times. Manchester is in my heart. I left many good friends there, the supporters are amazing and I wish I can come back one day."
That last bit might trigger a few of those winces inside the Bernabeu, but his words needn't be a cause for concern.
Among his generation, no bigger name than his has ever been transferred. Only one player has ever been more expensive. Only one other (Lionel Messi) can rival him for superstardom.
But the very private Barcelona phenomenon has never had to answer the same sort of questions—he's always been at Barcelona. That's left Ronaldo, in an age of unrivalled media attention, in the unique position where he's asked about his former club perhaps more than anyone else ever has.
"I really did love being at Manchester United. Believe me, they will be a good team again, I'm sure of it. It is a great club," he reinforced once more.
For Ronaldo, the obvious reverence for his former club is just public acknowledgment of their role in the path to where he is now. Though he speaks unrestrained of his appreciation for fans and old friends, sharing a father-and-son dynamic of sorts with Sir Alex Ferguson, the Ballon d'Or winner won't be fleeing back to Old Trafford.
Not in his prime years, anyway.
"I am happy here in Real Madrid and have four more years, but in the future you never know because they treated me unbelievably there."
One feels the situation might be different if Ferguson was still at United—the one manager Ronaldo refers to as a "friend."
Were the English outfit still at the pinnacle of the European game, still nurturing some of the continent's finest talent, still seriously challenging for major silverware and still in the Champions League, it's possible to imagine Ronaldo returning to Manchester on the more immediate road ahead.
But in their present state, the Red Devils can't cater for the Portuguese's drive.
"My ambition now is to do the same stuff as last year, win the most important trophies, collectively and individually. I always want to do better than the year before," he said when asked of last season's success.
Fresh from capturing a 10th European title, Real Madrid is the only place for him, the most obvious destination to compile the record he craves.
And Ronaldo will know that more than anyone. Even if there are some bumps along the way.
Of course, those looking for any hints of dissatisfaction in the 29-year-old regarding Real will have been drawn to his opposition of the sales of Angel Di Maria and Xabi Alonso, the former heading to Ronaldo's old home at United.
"If I was in charge, maybe I would not do things like that," he admitted, per ESPN FC.
Such a comment will inevitably lead to suggestions of disquiet between Ronaldo and Madrid, but like his public affection for United, that's a consequence of the unparalleled attention he faces and the importance placed upon his words by his own excellence.
Wince they might have, but those at Real Madrid needn't start covering the exits.
At the core of Ronaldo's footballing existence is still an incessant craving to win, to break new ground on a relentless quest for the ultimate triumph.
He'll know Madrid—and not Manchester—is the place for that right now.
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