Before anyone arrives, Ruben Dias is at Manchester City’s training ground, ready to start his day.
“The problem is I walk into the building and when I walk out it’s already dark,” he joked to CNN Sport as he drove through Manchester to join his team.
It was through this dedication to football, alongside his natural talent, that Dias forged his reputation as one of the game’s finest defenders, winning the Premier League twice with Manchester City and now featuring in the Premier League. world 2022 with Portugal.
“It will definitely be a special moment,” he said, ahead of the tournament.
“I had the chance to participate in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. And I really felt a different perspective because it’s one thing to watch it from the outside, you know how hard it is. great, but then to live it and be there is just another thing.
“As a player, that’s probably the biggest [trophy] you can reach. It’s unfair to put it into words, to be honest, the feeling you must have after doing it.
Dias was included in Portugal’s squad in 2018 but the 21-year-old picked up an injury and didn’t feature in any games.
This time, he will be a key player for the Selection as he navigates a group including Ghana, Uruguay and South Korea, aiming to score what will likely be the last World Cup for his ‘golden generation’ with panache.
Pepe is 39, João Moutinho is 36 and, of course, Portuguese talisman Cristiano Ronaldo is 37 with his powers waning and a troubled club career following his departure from Manchester United.
“The first day I met [Ronaldo]actually trained with him, he had just won the Champions League,” Dias recalled.
“I still remember that day and we were training normally. And then you just see why he was where he was. You know, the way he did everything, everything, the detail, the dedication.
Dias channels a similar spirit. His friend and teammate at City and Portugal, Bernardo Silva, told CNN Sport that “he’s like 100% football”, always working for the team and trying to help his teammates.
“For me, football is everything,” Dias says. “That’s life. That’s happiness. It deals with everything from being wonderful to being the worst thing in the world, dealing with all kinds of emotions.
“It’s preparing my future, it’s preparing one day to start a family. It is to become a better man myself. Like many other professions too, but for me football is a great example of life because you have everything in football.
Despite being only 25, Dias is already building a legacy at the Etihad Stadium, proving to be a key member of the all-conquering Manchester City side.
After his first season with the club in 2020/21, he won several individual accolades – Premier League Player of the Season, Football Writer’s Player of the Year and Etihad Player of the Season – and was hailed as part of the management group. of City.
“Ultimately, I think it’s all about what’s deep inside you, what’s deep inside your head, your subconscious, the things you do just because it’s those other things that you feel like doing,” he said.
But family, as well as football, is everything to Dias, he says, later trying to replicate his mother’s recipe for arroz de pato – a Portuguese duck rice dish – with his brother.
“You can have all the success in the world on your own,” he adds. “But if you don’t have anyone to share it with, what’s the point?”