Former Portugal international Maniche chatted to AS about the World Cup, Spain and Cristiano's future: "When you've won everything there is to win with a club, sometimes it's good to change".
What are your thoughts on the group Portugal and Spain are in at the World Cup?
I think it's a fairly accessible group for both of them because they are stronger teams than Morocco and Iran. The first game will be vital - starting off with a win gives you so much confidence. On the flip side, if you lose, then you don't have any margin for error in the other two group games.
Would you describe it as ‘The group of death’?
It's a strong group from the point of view Spain is a very strong national team, with players who have won everything and Portugal are the European champions; a lot will depend on what Cristiano does - although having said that, they did beat France in the Euros final even after Cristiano went off injured…. After that, how difficult the group ends up being will be down to what Morocco and Iran do - Iran are the surprise package and are really motivated and keen to make history. Morocco meanwhile, are a very interesting team and could gain momentum and morale if they win their first game.
Which of them has the best chance of going on to win the World Cup?
Spain are one of the candidates to win it. Portugal should try and go as far as possible. Being European champions lets you dream but we're not among the favourites because at the World Cup you have very strong countries like Brazil and Argentina, who are always among the leading candidates along with Germany and Spain. When the players don't see themselves as favourites, they sometimes perform better. But being one of the favourites can increase the pressure.
Spain have a good mix of experience and youth
What are Spain's strong points in your opinion?
They have young players who can make a difference along with highly experienced player like Ramos, Piqué, Busquets… Then they have a strong frontline with Diego Costa, Aspas… They have a great team.
You are good friends with Cristiano. What do you make of his situation at Real Madrid?
I think Cristiano should protect himself a little more but he knows what he is doing. As a friend of his, obviously I want the best for him and for him to enjoy his football as best he can. He's beating records every season but in spite of that, there are people who don't want him there. It will be very difficult for anyone to equal or do better than everything he has achieved at Real Madrid.
Cristiano knows what's best for him
Would you recommend that he leaves Madrid?
If he feels that he needs to go to another country where he will be more motivated then maybe it might be a good idea for him to do that. When you've won everything there is to win with a club, sometimes it's healthy to change. But I will say this: the biggest mistake I made in my career was when I was with Atlético. I was happy there but I forgot the most important thing - I made a mistake by leaving for the sake of a coach. If that coach had not been there, I would have stayed because I was happy with everything else - the fans, my team mates, the club, the city… Cristiano has an advantage in that he is at a massive club - one for whom he has done everything. He's the only one who will know if he feels it's time for a change.