THE man tasked with rejuvenating Singapore football wants players who embody the relentless work ethic of Cristiano Ronaldo rather than those who rely on pure talent alone.
In his first press conference on Thursday, Football Association of Singapore (FAS) technical director Michel Sablon recounted his exchange with a current Chelsea coach who once worked with Ronaldo at Portugal.
Comparing the Real Madrid sensation to Chelsea star Eden Hazard, he said: "He (Chelsea coach) told me the first thing Ronaldo thinks about when he wakes up is his physical conditioning, and what he needs to do to keep improving.
"Hazard doesn't think that way, but he's a different kind of talent," said the 67-year-old, who previously helmed Belgium's Olympic squad and was also the assistant coach of its national team that reached the 1986 World Cup semi-finals.
"The general rule in football is you must keep working hard on every aspect of your game."
Sablon is credited with Belgian football's recent resurgence in his previous role as the country's technical director. In 10 years, Belgium has risen from 55th in the Fifa world rankings to No.3. He has signed a two-year contract with the FAS to replace Serb Slobodan Pavkovic, who left the post in January.
Besides spearheading Singapore's bid to host either the 2019 or 2021 Under-17 World Cup, his main goals at the FAS will be to develop a broad-based youth development programme, identify and polish talented youth to represent the nation at elite levels, and nurture a crop of high-level coaches.
He said: "I'm not here for two years and then go away. Give us time. We are going for quality and preparing our players and coaches for a platform beyond Singapore."