Ronaldo’s ex-Sporting Lisbon teammate Paulo Sergio sets sights on S.League title
Ronaldo's former Sporting Lisbon teammate Paulo Sergio eyeing title with DPMM
COURTS YOUNG LIONS v BRUNEI DPMM
Tonight, 7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
For three years, Paulo Sergio partnered Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ok, so they were both teenagers at Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon.
But, according to Sergio, who now plays for Brunei DPMM in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League, even then, Ronaldo was already driven to become one of the game's best.
"Yes, I played with Cristiano in the club's academy, the (reserve) Sporting B team, as well as the first team," said Sergio who, at 31, is a year older than his former teammate.
"He is a great guy.
"Even when we were at that age, he was already very hard working.
"He told me that he would one day be the best player in the world."
While they were mates as teenagers, Sergio and Ronaldo's careers would take dramatically different paths.
Ronaldo signed for Manchester United in 2003 and then moved on to Real Madrid for a then-record £80 million ($174 million) fee six years later, winning three Ballons D'Or (in 2008, 2013 and 2014).
Sergio, meanwhile, was farmed out on loan by Sporting to several top division Portuguese teams, before being released in 2008.
He then played in neighbouring Spain for a season before returning to Portugal, scoring 11 goals in 150 appearances in Portugal's top division in total.
Make no mistake about it, though, Sergio showed great promise as a teenager.
He emerged as top scorer at the 2003 Uefa Under-19 championship with five goals, in a tournament that featured the likes of England's Stewart Downing and Italian trio Giorgio Chiellini, Alberto Aquilani and Giampaolo Pazzini.
He also scored four goals for Portugal as they qualified for the 2006 Uefa Under-21 championship, but ultimately failed to make the cut for the squad.
Earlier this year, he made the bold decision to leave Europe to sign for DPMM, coached by former Blackburn Rovers manager Steve Kean.
"I wanted to try another experience, and play football outside Europe," explained Sergio.
"DPMM showed interest, so here I am."
He packed his bags and moved his family - wife and two daughters - to South-east Asia, and says they enjoy the change.
It hasn't been an easy season for Sergio on the pitch, however, with a hamstring injury limiting him to just 13 S.League appearances, although it is testament to his quality that he has managed to score eight goals.
The perfect end to his debut season would be to help DPMM to their first S.League title.
With eight games to go, the Wasps are in the driver's seat for the championship, three points ahead of closest rivals Albirex Niigata, and with a game in hand.
"I'm satisfied with my performances, but I think that I could help the team even better had it not been for my injuries," said Sergio.
"But my teammates did really well without me.
"I still think it is still a bit early to talk about the title.
"We have eight cup finals to play.
"But we are on the right path, and we want to keep going all the way to the title."
I’m satisfied with my performances, but I think that I could help the team even better had it not been for my injuries.
— Paulo Sergio