Silvestre didn’t think Ronaldo would win a Ballon d’Or – until third season

Ex-Manchester United defender Mikael Silvestre has revealed when he realised that Cristiano Ronaldo would go on to win the Ballon d'Or.

The duo were teammates at Old Trafford between 2003 and 2008, when Silvestre left the club to join Premier League rivals Arsenal, playing alongside each other 138 times.

Silvestre has revealed that by the 2005/06 season, he could see that Ronaldo had the ability and mentality to become the best player in the world.

He has said that he even told the Portuguese forward to his face that he thought he would win the Ballon d'Or in the future.

Speaking to FourFourTwo, when asked if he could see Ronaldo winning the Ballon d'Or, Silvestre said: "At first, no – I didn't know he would become as good as he has.

"It was during the course of his third season that we knew. I told him he would win the Ballon d’Or if he carried on like this, because he was getting better and better and providing for the team and being more lethal in front of goal.

"The technical attributes were there but also the mentality. The hard work. He worked harder than his teammates and harder than anyone else.

"On and off the field, he started showing the character we see now. That came out once his English improved, he started to become a leader."

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Ronaldo has gone on to win the Ballon d'Or five times in his career, with his first coming in 2008 while he was still in his first spell with United.

He won another four after moving to Real Madrid in 2009, leaving him with the second most victories, after his rival Lionel Messi who has won it six times.

Ronaldo has also finished runner-up six times, more than anyone else, and in third place on one occasion, in 2019.

The 2021 winner of the award will be revealed in Paris on November 29, with Messi amongst the favourites along with Robert Lewandowski and Jorginho.

Silvestre departed United in 2008 after the club won the Champions League in Moscow, having made 361 appearances for the club in nine years.

After leaving, he went on to play for Arsenal, Werder Bremen, Portland Timbers and Indian club Chennaiyin before retiring in 2015 aged 37.

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