IT’S Cristiano Ronaldo’s greatest regret.
The Juventus star, now 34, has had an outstanding career that allows fans and pundits to call him the greatest of all time.
After signing for Manchester United as a precocious teen, he went on to superstardom with Real Madrid and is recognised as one of sports’ biggest names across the globe.
But all that success is tinged with sadness when he reflects on a troubled family life with an alcoholic father, who missed his meteoric rise.
Dad José Dinis Aveiro died in 2005 of liver failure, when Ronaldo was just 20 – two years into his career at Old Trafford.
And in an interview with Piers Morgan that airs tonight, he breaks down in tears when quizzed about his father’s passing.
“I really don’t know my father 100 per cent,” Ronaldo reveals on ITV’s Cristiano Ronaldo Meets Piers Morgan.
“He was a drunk person. I never spoke with him, like a normal conversation. It was hard.
“To be the number one and he don’t see nothing, and he don’t see to receive awards, to see what I became.”
A SOLDIER’S LIFE
José Dinis Aveiro was forced into military service, and fought an unpopular war to prevent the colony of Angola winning its independence from Portugal.
It was a war that was lost, and one in which he and his fellow soldiers saw atrocities that left a stain mentally.
The living conditions were appalling, while soldiers were left half-starved when supplies arrived rotten.
Worse still, sickness swept through the camp – many men were confined to sick beds suffering with malaria, chills, tremors and a fever, which left them unable to move for weeks.
The soldiers mostly lived on Angolan beer, Cuca because the water from a local river wasn’t safe to drink and was so warm it couldn’t quench a thirst.
It all took a toll on Aveiro, who returned home a broken man after he had served his country.
A NEW LIFE
After 13 months in Africa, where he also fought in Mozambique, Aveiro came back to a Portugal he hardly knew.
Because the military dictatorship the country was under had spent so much money on the war, it suffered a horrendous economic crash.
There were no jobs in Madeira, and Aveiro was skint – bought drinks in bars by pals who respected the fact he was an army vet.
Friend and fellow solider Jose Manuel Coelho told ESPN: “We were abandoned. The war veterans didn’t have any money and no work.
“Of course when I see Ronaldo, I remember his dad: He had problems and didn’t have anything to eat, so he would turn to drinking.
“His friends would buy him drinks. He didn’t have any money. He didn’t eat properly.”
Aveiro became a gardener, and then supplemented his income by taking on the post of kit man for Andorinha, a team based in the Funchal suburb of Santo Antonio.
He was tasked with tidying up the dressing rooms and had to make sure all the players had their kits washed.
He got the job because Ronaldo played for the side, but his son was taunted by his teammates because his dad held such a poor job.
However, that made Ronaldo more hungry to succeed, to show those that teased him he was indestructible.
Aveiro was also often seen drinking in a small bar at the club as hours passed by.
GRIPPED BY ALCOHOLISM
After years of heavy-boozing and abuse, Aveiro’s alcohol-ravaged body finally gave in.
In September, 2005 he passed away from liver failure aged just 51 in London.
Ronaldo had tried everything to keep his father alive, but all the money in the world couldn’t stop the inevitable.
He was by Aveiro’s side when he died, and made a declaration that he was going to be the best footballer in the world.
Ronaldo never broke his promise, and has gone on to win the Ballon d’Or a record five times.
But unfortunately, his father never saw his astonishing success.
Cristiano Ronaldo dotes on his wife in candid interview with Piers Morgan