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Cristiano Ronaldo the Michael Jordan of football, says Manchester United's Jesse Lingard

England international also discusses playing in front of empty stands and predicts which teams will reach the NBA Finals

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring for Juventus 4:07
Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard tells Sky Sports NBA Cristiano Ronaldo is the Michael Jordan of football

Jesse Lingard has described Cristiano Ronaldo as the Michael Jordan of football.

Jesse Lingard at Manchester United training session
Image: Jesse Lingard pictured at a Manchester United training session

Speaking to Sky Sports ahead of the restart of the NBA season on July 30, Manchester United midfielder and Toronto Raptors fan Lingard was asked to pick a footballer whose achievements compared with those of NBA icon Jordan, who won six championships with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s.

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"I have to say Cristiano Ronaldo," he said. "Everything he has achieved in his career. He has been at plenty of clubs and won many trophies. I believe he is a real icon of football, the Michael Jordan of football.

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"When [Ronaldo] first came to Manchester United, I was 11 or 12. We did a skills DVD and it was him teaching us skills which was good. That was the first time I had seen him. He was young and skinny when he came [to the club].

"I have played against him a few times. Did he give me trouble? No, he wasn't too bad, to be fair! There was one game in pre-season where he came on and you could see the skills and the qualities that he brought."

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Having just completed a Premier League season that was suspended mid-season due to the coronavirus pandemic and finished with games played with no fans present, Lingard is better placed than most to offer guidance on what the NBA players will experience when they return to the court inside the bubble at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in central Florida.

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"It must have been a tough period [for NBA players] during lockdown and the season getting suspended, likewise over here," he said. "The best advice I can give is to embrace it. Enjoy those special moments when you're walking out onto the court, even if it is a different scenario with no fans. I think the players have got to drive that energy and bring the atmosphere [themselves]."

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With the NBA and European football crossing over with increasing frequency, Lingard was asked which of his current and former team-mates would enjoy success on the basketball court.

"Basketball has different tactics and ways of playing and they set up a lot different [to football teams] but [as a player] you can relate. Certain players are small and agile and can bring their teams into games. That's similar to football," he said.

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"When Romelu Lukaku was at Manchester United, he was very keen on basketball. He was in Miami with Paul Pogba playing basketball. I think those two would be up there, for me."

Asked to predict the identity of this season's NBA finalists, Lingard stayed loyal to the club he supports.

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"In the East, the Raptors, of course," he said. "I've got to back the Raptors.

"And the Lakers [in the West]. There is always a lot of talk about the Lakers and they have some great players in their team. I think they could push for the Finals, definitely."

Watch the full interview with Jesse Lingard on this week's edition of Heatcheck, our weekly NBA debate show, available on Sky Sports' YouTube channel at 4pm on Wednesday.

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