Cristiano Ronaldo's close friend watched him from prison and was 'better' than football icon

Cristiano Ronaldo football

Cristiano Ronaldo is still going strong with the Portugal icon adding to his football legend

Jack Otway

By Jack Otway

Published: 19/10/2023

- 10:11

The 38-year-old is still going strong in Saudi Arabia as he enters the twilight years of his career

Back in 2003, Manchester United signed a cocky, confident and courageous Cristiano Ronaldo as a replacement for David Beckham.

Beckham had left for Real Madrid that year after a bitter clash with Sir Alex Ferguson that saw their previously close relationship crumble.

United played Sporting Lisbon in a friendly and Ronaldo, who was just 18, tore them to shreds on a memorable night of pre-season action.

The rest, as the old saying goes, is history.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo joined Manchester United back in 2003 and said Fabio Paim was 'better'


After moving to United, Ronaldo showed modesty by discussing close friend and Sporting team-mate Fabio Paim.

"If you think I'm good, just wait until you see Fabio Paim," the skinny teenager said at the time.

But Paim's career failed to hit the heights many expected.

Now, speaking to The Sun, he has shed light on Ronaldo's comments and where his own career went wrong.

Paim agrees with Ronaldo's comments from 20 years ago. In his eyes, he was the better player.

“I was really special. I must be humble but this is the truth," he told the publication.

“Unfortunately back then there was not Instagram or Facebook, nothing was recorded like nowadays but I strongly and honestly believe that until today there was no other like me with the same quality I had.

“Cristiano, for all his effort and hard work, went to a level he deserves.

“But when I was playing, if I had the same effort and commitment, I would be better than him.

“If I speak about technique, I was better. I was a small Ronaldinho. But as we can see, it's not the technique that leads us to wherever.

“But yes at that time I was better than Cristiano. I believe he should give me one of his Ballons d'Or!”

Paim had a brief spell at Chelsea but enjoyed partying and women too much to focus on football.

That's something he now regrets.

“Unfortunately for me, I was born with talent," he said.

"As I was earning lots of money, I got the illusion I didn't need the effort. It is impossible for a person like me to be a millionaire.

“I regret some of my choices. Now I'm at a different age so can see the picture differently.

“The talent was there but my mind wasn't. My head was on women and partying, everywhere else apart from football.

“I played some matches but my body was not in its best shape and didn’t respond to what people were demanding from me because if I could, I would have been at Barcelona or Real Madrid.”

Back in 2019, Paim's life hit the lowest point.

He was arrested for being in possession of cocaine and was held in a cell for a year on suspicion of drug trafficking.

The prison he was placed at was close to the Portuguese's FA Cidade do Futebol HQ, while his case later collapsed.

Paim was able to look at Ronaldo and the rest of the Portuguese players training nearby. That, in his eyes, was enough to trigger a remarkable turnaround.


Fabio Paim

Fabio Paim has rued his mistakes and wishes he had followed the path of Cristiano Ronaldo


“The prison I was in is next to the field where the Portugal national team performs so I could watch them training every day for the Euro 2020 qualifiers," he added.

“I was there for a reason and I never thought, 'Ah, Cristiano is there. I should be there too.'”

Paim continued: “Prison was really hard and difficult for me and my family. But it was good for me.

“I learned what comes easy is not good for you. And I couldn’t have that lifestyle anymore so I need to work and have dignity.

“My life is calmer now. I'm sure I will make some more mistakes because I am human.

Portugal prison

Cristiano Ronaldo's close friend Fabio Paim was kept in a cell in Portugal (pictured in 2000)


“Prison was not a place for a boy like me.

“I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. It was my choice, it was my mistake. But I needed the comfort and support that only family can give you.

“Family is the most important thing.

“I had to be honest with my children. I just asked them to be there for me, to visit me.

“My mother was always my big support and she still is.

“What hurts me so much is how much I have hurt them with my errors because they didn't deserve that. I did too much to them. I apologise for being emotional - I can't help it.”

You may like