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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ferguson says Ronaldo can emulate Pele and Maradona

Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo has the potential to become as great a player as Pele or Diego Maradona, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said on Saturday.

"The expectations are always so high with Cristiano because of his rise in the last two or three years since we got him as a young kid," Ferguson told a news conference on the eve of his side's Club World Cup final against Ecuador's LDU .

"He scored 42 goals last season -- his goal-scoring is the one area which for a wide player Cristiano is absolutely superb.

"Pele scored in a World Cup final as a 17-year-old and Maradona played for his country at 17. Cristiano was 18 so the signs are the same."

Ferguson's lavish praise comes during the latest war of words between United and Spanish giants Real Madrid over the future of the Ballon d'Or winner.

"His ability with two feet is tremendous," purred Ferguson. "You would never associate it with a Portuguese winger but he is absolutely magnificent in the air.

"He's 23 now and still a very young lad but there's a lot of things in his favour to go on and prove himself as a legend."

Ronaldo was among the scorers in United's 5-3 win over Japan's Gamba Osaka in Thursday's Club World Cup semi-final but was overshadowed by two goals from substitute Wayne Rooney.

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