Cristiano Ronaldo has revealed he took huge risks with his career longevity to appear in the Champions League final and at the World Cup.
At the back end of last term, the Real Madrid superstar won La Decima with Los Blancos and also broke the Champions League record for goals scored in a single season; he scored 17 times in 11 appearances.
He then went on to appear for Portugal in Brazil at the World Cup, only for his side to be knocked out in the group stages.
However, he has now admitted that if his doctors had their way, he would not have appeared in Brazil or in the Champions League final. He was suffering a knee injury that had not completely healed, but he decided to take the risks of playing on.
Asked by World Soccer magazine (h/t ESPN.co.uk) whether he put his career at risk, he replied:
Yes. ... In your life you do not win without sacrifices and you must take risks. We were taking part in big competitions and it was difficult. Things went well, I beat the record for goals in the Champions League. On holidays I rested and looked after my body. Sometimes I bring my body to the maximum, all elite athletes do that. ...
... If I had stopped I would have been fine. I did not want to miss the final of the Champions League or the World Cup. I was not fully fit, but I forced the issue. On a club level it went well. We won, I scored and the team achieved La Decima, which was what we all hoped for. With Portugal it did not go so well.
His knee and hamstring injuries were apparent at the time, as his form did dip somewhat at the end of the season and at the World Cup, especially when compared to his superlative performances the rest of the time, per Spanish football journalist Sid Lowe:
Indeed, although Ronaldo scored in the Champions League final, it was actually Angel Di Maria who ran the show that evening, winning the Man of the Match award.
At the World Cup, he did his best to haul a poor Portugal side through a tough group, but it is unlikely even a fully fit Ronaldo could have achieved such a feat.
He seems to have recovered properly over the summer, as he has already bagged a quite incredible 13 goals in just six La Liga appearances this season, including three hat-tricks, per WhoScored.com.
It is likely that some may brand Ronaldo as foolish for forcing himself to play when he was clearly injured, but it goes hand in hand with the incredible drive he has to be the best, as analysed by Darren Richman of Squawka:
However, the former Manchester United man turns 30 in February, and although he is still very much at the top of his game, he will soon need to manage himself more carefully.
Football writers Rik Sharma and Miguel Delaney both fear Ronaldo's injuries may catch up with him sooner rather than later:
But at the moment, he is playing better than ever, and the injury troubles of the summer seem to have been put behind him.
Whether he will be as lucky in the future remains to be seen, but what is in no doubt is that it would be a crying shame if Ronaldo—arguably the best player of his generation—had his career cut short by injury.