Ronnie O'Sullivan Makes 'Special One' Claim And Gives Messi vs Ronaldo Verdict

One of snooker's finest talents is a truly special artist and he sits with legends
21:00, 24 Feb 2022

Ronnie O’Sullivan insists that managing to combine being a serial, record-breaking winner with a well-deserved reputation for entertainment and bringing joy to millions of fans with his flair and panache is his greatest achievement – and hopes his lasting legacy will be that of a true artist. 

The Rocket has been in action at the European Masters in Milton Keynes this week, and it was victories over two young guns in York’s Ashley Hugill and China’s Wu Yize, players he enjoyed competing against due to their positive approach, that got him thinking. 

And though he is slightly nervous about trading on Jose Mourinho’s territory, the six-time world champion, who has racked up a record 38 ranking titles, 20 major successes, and 15 maximum 147 breaks, reckons he deserves to be included in sport’s list of ‘Special Ones’. 

O’Sullivan said: “A big shout out to Ashley Hugill. He’s 27, so not very young in snooker terms, but a very good player and still not very experienced in tour terms. He has a lot of good qualities, and I’m not one for giving out compliments unless they are deserved. The same as Wu Yize earlier in the week, he will be a world champion if he develops and gets good advice. 

“There is a right way and a wrong way to play a sport, and they both play snooker the right way. You might win, but if you do it in the wrong way you ain’t getting my eyeballs. It’s the way you do it, sometimes. You have good players, great players and exceptional players. 

“And even some exceptional players win tournaments but are not great to watch. And you get good players that don’t win so  many events but I’d pay to watch them, because they play the game the right way. 

“I am just one of the special ones that is able to play the game in a fantastic way…and win. It is very rare to get that, a sportsman that can do that, dominate their sport but play in a way that nobody else can and I am very proud of that. 

“That will go on my gravestone, there will be a lot of good memories that I have left behind. And when I see someone trying to play the game the right way, I appreciate it because that’s what sport is all about. Maybe ‘special one’ is nicking Jose Mourinho’s nickname. 

“But maybe one of eight or so sportsmen on the planet that were artists and winners – Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, Phil Taylor, Messi, Maradona…not Ronaldo, he’s more of a machine. Great player, but I like artists, people that play their sport in a unique way. But when you watched Phil Taylor throw a dart, it was just different. He was special. Maybe give us something else instead of OBEs for being special!” 

And O’Sullivan also reckons he is taking a leaf out of the book of Amazon founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos in that one compartment of his life is for making his real money, leaving him free to indulge passions in the rest of it. And for O’Sullivan, he is trying to have a mindset that ensures playing snooker is now the fun part, something that was not always the case in the past. 

That is certainly the impression given watching O’Sullivan these days, where his average shot time is regularly down close to 15 seconds a shot, and the flamboyance and flair, never too far from the surface at the worst of times, is allowed to flourish throughout his matches.

He added: “I would really rather talk about other players and not about myself, though. I can talk about other snooker players all day long.  But when I talk about myself I just want to book myself in the Priory and have a month in there to get over the trauma this game has done to me over the years. 

“However it is impossible not to enjoy it with my current frame of mind. It might sound crazy to compare yourself to Jeff Bezos, but he makes his money with Amazon – and then he has his fun flying Blue Origin rockets to the moon.  

“I do my stuff away from snooker now and play only for pure pleasure  because I like the game. It can be hard in that mindset because you don’t care if you get beat and go home. That is difficult as you are playing top guys and a lapse in concentration can be the difference between winning and losing matches. But I have accepted that’s how I want it and how it is.”

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