"He knew he wanted to become the best striker in the world" said Van Nistelrooy of his ex-team-mate.
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Ruud van Nistelrooy called Cristiano Ronaldo's overhead kick against Juventus "out of this world" as he congratulated the Real Madrid man on taking his record by scoring in a tenth consecutive UEFA Champions League game.
Van Nistelrooy played alongside Ronaldo at Manchester United (2003-06) and Real Madrid (2009-10), and talked about his old team-mate as he answered fans' Twitter questions in a tuk-tuk in Pnomh Penh, Cambodia, as part of the 2018 UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour, presented by Heineken.
What did you make of Cristiano Ronaldo's bicycle kick as he broke your record for goals in successive #UCL games?
Ruud van Nistelrooy: It was a big game – a quarter-final. Having scored nine consecutive goals in the competition, to score your tenth in a game like that in the way he did … Both goals were really good, especially the bicycle kick which was just out of this world. The height he kicked it at was unbelievable.
What are your memories of him as a team-mate?
Van Nistelrooy: He came as a young lad but he knew what he wanted to become, and he also said it: 'I want to be the best player in the world.' At the beginning you think: 'OK, he's a young lad – keep dreaming.' But the work-rate and talent he's combining has made him achieve his goals, and he's still going strong. It's fantastic.
What was the toughest defence you ever came up against?
Van Nistelrooy: I remember a Champions League game against AC Milan, where the back four was Cafu, Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta and Jaap Stam. It was impossible to get through.
Who would you include in your dream 5-a-side team?
Van Nistelrooy: In goal, Edwin van der Sar. For Man. Utd and Holland he was amazing for a long period of time – he was on the top of his game. Jaap Stam, one of the strongest, quickest, aggressive centre-backs I played against – also good on the ball, too.
Then Andrés Iniesta: the way he plays is fantastic to watch, everything is with technique and vision. He's done it for 10-15 years, too. I have two more and that has to be the two who are dominating world football over the last ten years, destroying every record in football that was there. It's Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. I think that's a pretty decent team.