In an interview with ESPN, former Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira spoke about life at the La Liga club and playing alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Going to Madrid was one of the best experiences of my life. Getting to know José [Mourinho] and working with him was great. It opened the door to the highest level of football. I still remember my first training session, it was at UCLA, they told me that as games lasted 90 minutes, our training sessions would last 90 minutes too and we would be entirely with the ball.
“I thought that was great, it was easy compared to how things were done with Germany, where we did a lot of running. But after that first session, I was exhausted. It was non-stop: 10 against 10, six against six, with no rest even when the ball went out of play. I was so tired afterward, but happy because we always worked with the ball. You need to run and you need to think. After that session, we went back to the team bus, and he was sat two rows ahead of me, he sent me a text message: ‘You are an incredible player, look at my line-up for tomorrow. You will start the game’. I looked around after reading the text message and I saw him looking at me and smiling. It was incredible and gave me a lot of confidence. I needed that to do my job alongside the genius players out on the pitch. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about that.”
Playing with Cristiano Ronaldo
“I met two Cristianos. The first was at Real Madrid. He was a bit younger, maybe a bit more insecure and selfish – but not in a bad way, just like he had to find his personality I think. He scored many, many, many goals. He was fantastic. But he didn’t have as much influence on the team. And then he moved to Juventus, in the second period of Cristiano. He had the same spirit, the same selfishness and ego that made him want to score, but he was more of a leader – more of a natural leader. So he always spoke to his team-mates, pushing them and helping them be better because he knew he needed them to win the Scudetto.
“At Juventus, he was more mature. That was really nice to see. He had kids… He was relaxed but once he was on the pitch he was always focused. I told the guys at Juventus, ‘Cristiano is special, but he’s just a normal guy, and humble but he’s special, so take care of him. In the locker room, he is really relaxed but on the pitch, you will see the performance levels going higher, and will see that from the first day’. So we had shooting practice and he always wants to win, so ok, we’ll bet on a bottle of wine, or we’re playing four against four. It would be like, ‘Cristiano, what shall we bet? A bottle of wine? 100 euros? or a bottle of wine. He’s a competitor and when he lost, he got really pissed off. Because everyone wanted to beat Cristiano, or they wanted to help him win… So the performance levels just keep getting higher and higher – and this is also for Cristiano too.”