Cristiano Ronaldo won the first of his four Ballon d’Or awards back on December 2nd 2008, fending off competition from Lionel Messi and Fernando Torres to win the coveted individual accolade.
The Portuguese superstar polled 446 points out a maximum 480 after helping Manchester United win both the Premier League and Champions League titles, scoring 42 goals in 49 appearances during the 2007-08 campaign.
While most people thought Ronaldo was a worthy winner, not everybody considered Man Utd’s No. 7 to be the world’s best footballer, despite his achievement.
Jose Mourinho, who was managing Inter Milan at the time, was one of those people.
He told reporters a few weeks after Ronaldo won the Ballon d’Or that, in his opinion, there were three players better than the 23-year-old.
Mourinho in 2008: Zlatan is better than Ronaldo
"Ronaldo is a good player but he's certainly not the best," Mourinho was quoted as saying by the Telegraph. "He deserved the Ballon d'Or because his team won the Champions League and Premier League, he played and he scored. But for me, [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic is better."
Zlatan scored 22 goals during the 2007-08 campaign and then 29 goals in 47 matches the season after that.
He struck up an excellent working relationship with Mourinho, who re-signed the former Sweden international when he became Manchester United’s new manager last year.
"Zlatan is in love with football, he has a big heart and he is emotionally aggressive," Mourinho continued. "When I made him play many matches in a row, for the Italian football world I was doing what destroys children. But what I was trying to do was build a team with mental strength and he is in the perfect condition to win the Ballon d'Or. He should win it."
Mourinho also felt two other players were better than CR7
But Zlatan wasn’t the only player that Mourinho felt was better than Ronaldo at the time.
"When I think about how a player should be what comes to mind is players like Kaka, Ibrahimovic and Lionel Messi, who is a phenomenon and in two or three years will win the Ballon d'Or."
So, there you have it. Mourinho, who would later coach Ronaldo at Real Madrid, thought Zlatan, Kaka and Messi were all better than the Man Utd star just under a decade ago.
His opinions would change drastically over the coming years.
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