Barcelona legend Dani Alves has expressed his admiration for Cristiano Ronaldo and how the Manchester United forward managed to reach the top level of football through hard work rather than "born talent".
Alves came up against former Real Madrid forward Ronaldo on numerous occasions in club football - most notably during their time in Spain, while the pair also clashed on the international stage with Brazil and Portugal.
The bitter rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona had always prevented Alves from giving his true feelings about Ronaldo, the Brazil international has admitted.
Now playing his club football for Mexican side Club Universidad Nacional, Alves feels more comfortable speaking about Spanish football and his former rivals at Madrid – including Ronaldo.
"Cristiano exemplifies, for all of us who don't have that much quality, that with hard work you can compete against the best. I respect him a lot and I had the opportunity to tell him."
Alves also revealed that he once had a "scuffle" with Ronaldo after the Portuguese star snubbed him at a Ballon d'Or awards ceremony.
"There was a time, because of the rivalry, I went to greet him and he ignored me," added Alves.
"There was a controversy that never came out but in the Ballon d'Or dressing room we had a 'scuffle'. I greeted everyone and he ignored me because of the Barca-Madrid rivalry.
"I identify with him because everything I did in my life was based on work.
"As a player, I'm closer to Cristiano than [Lionel] Messi, because of work, not because of talent. Leo is a born talent, at a level only he can achieve."
It remains to be seen how grateful Ronaldo will be for Alves' praise, particularly his suggestion that the Portuguese forward is not on the same level to his great rival Lionel Messi.
Alves, meanwhile, added that he is confident he will be included in Brazil's World Cup squad for Qatar, despite not being called up by head coach Tite for the current international break.
If Alves does receive a call-up for the tournament, the 39-year-old could overtake former Real Madrid full-back Roberto Carlos as Brazil second most capped player of all time.
Alves has been capped 124 times compared to Carlos' 125, but the former Barcelona defender is unlikely to surpass Brazil's most capped player, Cafu, who made 142 appearances for his national side.
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