MADRID: Doubts over Cristiano Ronaldo’s fitness for Real Madrid’s Champions League final against Atletico Madrid on Saturday intensified after the three-time World Player of the Year limped off towards the end of training on Tuesday.
Ronaldo has been dogged by a persistent thigh injury which forced him to miss three games last month.
The Portuguese also came off at half-time of Real’s final La Liga game of the season — having scored twice in the first-half to take his tally for the season to 51 — at Deportivo la Coruna 10 days ago.
And Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane confirmed Ronaldo also didn’t play in a practice match on Saturday as a precaution.
However, Zidane remained confident that Ronaldo will be fit for the final as he attempts to break his own record of 17 Champions League goals in a season having already netted 16 in the competition so far this campaign.
“There will be no problem. He felt something on Saturday when we had a game between us and he didn’t play as a precaution,” Zidane said on Tuesday.
“He will be ready for Saturday and I think we are in good shape physically.”
However, there isn’t such good news for French defender Raphael Varane as Zidane confirmed he will miss Saturday’s final and his participation at Euro 2016 is now in jeopardy due to a hamstring injury.
“It is sure that he will be injured for Saturday,” added Zidane. “I expect he will be out for two or three weeks. I hope for him it isn’t as severe as anticipated. I hope he’ll have the chance to do something at the Euros.”
Varane was unlikely to start at the San Siro in Milan in any case with captain Sergio Ramos and Pepe Zidane’s preferred central defensive partnership.
An 11th European Cup would cap a sensational start to Zidane’s senior management career having turned around Real’s fortunes with 21 wins from 26 games since replacing the sacked Rafael Benitez in January.
However, the Frenchman — who won the Champions League for Madrid with a sensational volleyed winner in the 2002 final — insisted he still has a lot to learn as a coach.
“I have a lot to learn, the desire I have to learn is tremendous and I am convinced I am going to improve,” he added. “I have a lot to do to be a good and important coach in football.”
Zidane was more forthcoming on the qualities of his counterpart this weekend, Atletico coach Diego Simeone.
The Argentine has masterminded a revolution at Atletico to lead them to two Champions League finals in three years having only previously reached one European Cup final in their history.
“He is one of the best coaches in the world,” added Zidane. “He has everything a coach has to have. He knows his players and his team very well which is the most important thing.”
Zidane also hailed Atletico’s variation despite Simeone’s men often being labelled solely as a solid defensive unit.
Los Rojiblancos have kept 35 clean sheets in 56 games this season, including shutouts at home to Barcelona and Bayern Munich in dumping the Spanish and German champions out at the quarter-final and semi-final stages respectively.
And Atletico also managed a 1-0 win at Real’s Santiago Bernabeu to inflict Zidane’s only La Liga defeat in charge when the sides last met in February.
“It will be a difficult game because we are playing against a team that doesn’t just defend well. “Everyone talks about them defending well, but they are a complete team. They can also cause you problems playing with the ball.” AFP