Tony Pulis said Cristiano Ronaldo was the toughest opponent he faced and recalled his Stoke team left in complete disbelief.
Pulis spent 30 years as a manager and managed the Potters for ten seasons, guiding them to promotion to the Premier League in 2008.
Stoke’s first season gave him a real insight into the who’s who of world football, from John Terry to Cesc Fabregas, Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres.
One player who really shone was Ronaldo, who finished the 2008/09 season with the Ballon d’Or and 18 league goals to his name. Pulis got a taste of his quality during his side’s 5-0 defeat at the Theater of Dreams.
And Pulis was quick to name the Al Nassr striker as his toughest.
“If you look at the strikers we played against in that era, there are outstanding players at all the top clubs. I remember going to Old Trafford, the team was doing very well at the time.
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“I think Dean Whitehead missed a great chance about ten minutes before the end of the first half and we looked comfortable. Then all of a sudden Ronaldo got the ball, I think ‘He took the free kick and sent it towards the corner.
“With about 30 seconds left [until full-time], he hits another one. We enter [at half-time] 2-0 after competing really well.
“Then you walk into the locker room and you have these players there who have been working their tails off for 45 minutes, looking at each other thinking, ‘What do we have to do?’”
Pulis also gave honorable mentions to Drogba and Thierry Henry, who are club legends at Chelsea and Arsenal respectively and have scored a total of 279 Premier League goals.
“You could go through the Arsenal team and the Chelsea team at the time, Drogba was an absolute handful, Henry and people like that, they were just absolutely fantastic players.”
Luckily for Pulis, he has only had to face Ronaldo once in his career, with Stoke losing the reverse fixture that same season 1-0 before the United star left for Real Madrid in the summer.
He was also certainly aware of the other immense quality he encountered during the remainder of his Potters spell, as well as his subsequent spells at Crystal Palace and West Brom.
“When you look at the top, the Chelsea team, the United team and later in my career, obviously the Man City team, they were absolutely fabulous players.
“You try to take someone out of the game and lose a player yourself, we’ve never done that.
“We just made sure we knew what we were doing individually and collectively as a team. I don’t remember really doing anything different for anyone, they were all top players.”