Ronaldo backs Zidane after second straight Real win

Published 01/18/2016, 9:48 AM EST
Real Madrid’s new coach Zinedine Zidane attends a training session next to his players Cristiano Ronaldo (L) and James Rodriguez (R) in Valdebebas, outside Madrid, Spain, January 5, 2016. REUTERS/ Juan Medina


MADRID (Reuters) – Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo gave a ringing endorsement of new coach Zinedine Zidane and handed a rebuke to his sacked predecessor Rafa Benitez after Sunday’s 5-1 La Liga victory at home to Sporting Gijon.

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Real have comfortably won both their matches since Zidane took over this month, a 5-0 thrashing of Deportivo La Coruna and Sunday’s demolition of lowly Gijon, and Ronaldo said the players had a better relationship with the former Real and France great, who is known as “Zizou”, than with the unpopular Benitez.

The former Valencia, Liverpool, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Napoli manager was discarded after less than half a season in the job after an indifferent run of results left Real trailing city rivals Atletico Madrid and champions Barcelona in La Liga.

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“To be honest, with some coaches you have more empathy than with others,” Ronaldo told reporters after netting a double at the Bernabeu.

“The truth is, don’t ask me why, that the players have more empathy with Zizou,” the Portugal forward added.

“I never had a bad opinion of Rafa. He always did the best for Madrid but he sees football in a different way to Zizou.”

Zidane, a hero to Real fans, has set the Bernabeu buzzing since taking over and the players seem happier and more committed on the pitch.

Ronaldo said the 1998 World Cup winner had given the squad a boost and he was excited about the rest of the season.

Real are two points behind second-placed Barca after just over half of the campaign, with Atletico, the 2014 champions, two points clear at the top.

Expelled from the King’s Cup for fielding an ineligible player, they are through to the Champions League last 16 to play Serie A side AS Roma.

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“He (Zidane) is a calm person, serious in his work and fun outside of it,” Ronaldo said.

“He has an empathy with the players and I am very happy and excited. It’s an interesting moment for me and the players. We are in good shape and working hard.”

Real’s next outing is a La Liga game at Real Betis next Sunday.

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(Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Justin Palmer)

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