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Fabio Paim breaks down in tears during interview as he recalls watching Cristiano Ronaldo train from prison cell

Jack Kenmare

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Fabio Paim breaks down in tears during interview as he recalls watching Cristiano Ronaldo train from prison cell

Fabio Paim, the man Cristiano Ronaldo claimed was the only player better than him, has opened up about being "overwhelmed" by money and fame – as well as watching Cristiano Ronaldo from a prison cell – in an emotional interview.

Growing up in Estoril, a small town on the Portuguese Riviera, the talented Paim looked destined for the top.

At the age of 14, scouts from Barcelona, Manchester United and Real Madrid regularly attended games he featured in, and five years later, super-agent Jorge Mendes found him a loan move to Premier League outfit Chelsea, where many believed he would break into the first-team squad.

But after making only a handful of appearances for their reserve team, Paim left the ranks at Stamford Bridge before fading into obscurity.

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Speaking to The Sun this month, the 35-year-old forward, who went on to play for Qatar-based side Al Kharaitiyat SC and Luxembourg first division champions Union 05 Kayl-Tetange, amongst other lower league teams, opened up about his journey.

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“I was really special. I must be humble but this is the truth," he said. “Unfortunately back then there was not Instagram or Facebook, nothing was recorded like nowadays but I strongly and honestly believe that until today there was no other like me with the same quality I had.

“Cristiano, for all his effort and hard work, went to a level he deserves. But when I was playing, if I had the same effort and commitment, I would be better than him. If I speak about technique, I was better. I was a small Ronaldinho. But as we can see, it's not the technique that leads us to wherever.

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“But yes at that time I was better than Cristiano. I believe he should give me one of his Ballons d'Or!”

In total, Paim would play in seven different countries – including China, Angola, Malta, Lithuania – but a number of factors, including his behaviour off the field, played a part in his downfall.

“Unfortunately for me, I was born with talent," he added. "As I was earning lots of money, I got the illusion I didn't need the effort. It is impossible for a person like me to be a millionaire.

“I regret some of my choices. Now I'm at a different age so can see the picture differently. The talent was there but my mind wasn't. My head was on women and partying, everywhere else apart from football.

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“I played some matches but my body was not in its best shape and didn’t respond to what people were demanding from me because if I could, I would have been at Barcelona or Real Madrid.”

Image credit: Fabio Paim
Image credit: Fabio Paim

Back in 2019, Paim was arrested for being in possession of cocaine. He would spend a year in prison, where he was held in a cell that was located near the training base of Portugal's national team.

As a result, he watched former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates from the window of his cell as they trained every day for the Euro 2020 qualifiers.

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“I was there for a reason and I never thought, 'Ah, Cristiano is there. I should be there too.'" he said. “Prison was really hard and difficult for me and my family. But it was good for me.

“I learned what comes easy is not good for you. And I couldn’t have that lifestyle anymore so I need to work and have dignity.

“My life is calmer now. I'm sure I will make some more mistakes because I am human. Prison was not a place for a boy like me.

“I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. It was my choice, it was my mistake. But I needed the comfort and support that only family can give you. Family is the most important thing."

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Paim last played for Polish third-tier side LZS Starowice in late 2020.

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Featured Image Credit: SunSport - Getty Images - Fabio Paim

Topics: Cristiano Ronaldo, Chelsea, Premier League, Portugal

Jack Kenmare
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