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Football legends Ronaldo and Luis Figo watch Rafael Nadal's win against Alexei Popyrin on Thursday at the Caja Magica.

Nadal On Ronaldo: 'He Was One Of My Favourite Football Players'

Nadal speaks about the Brazilian and Real Madrid's loss against Chelsea

Rafael Nadal has big fans around the world. But one attendee inside Manolo Santana Stadium on Thursday at the Mutua Madrid Open during his win against Alexei Popyrin was more familiar than others for the Spaniard: football legend Ronaldo.

“I always admire the top athletes,” Nadal said. “I am a big fan of sport. When I was a kid, Ronaldo was playing in Barcelona with my uncle. So yeah, [he was] one of my favourite football players of all time, one of the best players that I saw play.”

One of Nadal’s uncles, Toni Nadal, is well-known in the tennis world for his work as Rafa’s coach. “Uncle Toni” is now mentoring Felix Auger-Aliassime. But another of the five-time Madrid champion’s uncles, Miguel Angel Nadal, played football with Ronaldo for FC Barcelona from 1996-97. Another member of that team, Luis Figo, was also in attendance at the Caja Magica on Thursday.

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Nadal is a big fan of Real Madrid, which was knocked out of the Champions League on Wednesday by Chelsea.

“I saw the match. Like a spectator, I have to say I'm very proud of my team. Of course, I don't like to lose,” Nadal said. “With all the difficulties that we had during the whole season with, I don't know, 60 injuries, it’s difficult to be where we were until yesterday, fighting for the two most important competitions we [are playing in]: semi-finals in the Champions League, and still fighting for La Liga.

“For me 100 per cent Zidane is one of my favourite [managers], without a doubt. Great person, great values for Real Madrid. I think the season is doing great after all the bad luck with injuries that we had. [It is] difficult to ask for more. If I will be the one to decide, of course I don't have any doubt that Zidane is the right guy to prepare probably the next team.”

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Since he was a kid, Nadal has always found interests outside of tennis. While the Spaniard has become known for his legendary intensity and fight on the court, he has enjoyed other things, too, including football.

“I was not the kind of guy or person that I was just focussed on tennis, tennis, tennis every single day. I was practising very hard, yes. I was focussed when I was on court, 100 per cent. But outside of the court I enjoyed all my life,” Nadal said. “I was able to do the things that my friends did, just I was not able to go party every Friday and Saturday. I was [okay going to a] party one Saturday every few weeks, but I had a lot of parties in my life, too. I went to the beach. I played football. I went to the cinema a lot of times. I spent time having dinners with the family, with everyone.

“I don't think I missed anything, honestly. The only thing that I can say, if they did 100 or 1,000 times, I did probably 100, that's all.”

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