MADRID: Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane insisted Cristiano Ronaldo is 100 percent fit for Saturday’s (Sunday in Manila) huge El Clasico clash against Barcelona despite playing a limited role in training this week.
And the Frenchman urged Ronaldo to put his perceived desire for an improved contract from the European champions on the back burner to help Real get back into the La Liga title race.
“He is 100 percent, he trained today and that is all that interests me,” Zidane said on Friday.
Ronaldo, 32, said he would like to retire at Real after scoring the winner in last weekend’s Club World Cup final, but that decision depended on those that run the club.
The Portuguese star signed a new deal to 2021 with Real just over a year ago, but has since seen Neymar’s move to Paris Saint Germain for a world record fee and a bumper new deal for Lionel Messi at Barcelona reportedly see them leapfrog Ronaldo as the world’s best paid player.
“Cristiano just has to think about what he has done, what he is doing and what he means to this club,” added Zidane.
“He deserves the full respect of the club and he has it. After the holidays we will talk about that for sure. At the moment the only important thing is the game tomorrow and for that he is 100 percent.”
Ronaldo only returned to full training on Friday after receiving some rough treatment from Brazilians Gremio last weekend. However, he has rediscovered top form in recent weeks with five goals in his last four outings.
Zidane’s men trail Barca by 11 points in fourth place behind Atletico Madrid and Valencia, but they do have a game in hand on their rivals.
Real captain Sergio Ramos claimed this week his side are “obliged to win more than ever” given their deficit in the title race, but Zidane claimed tomorrow’s result won’t be definitive no matter what happens.
“There is no anxiety. We need to think about playing a good match and not look at whether the difference is 11, eight or 25 points,” said Zidane. “The only thing we can control is playing well tomorrow.”
Barca 24 unbeaten
Barca are undefeated in their last 24 games. However, they were beaten in both legs as Real romped to victory 5-1 on aggregate in the Spanish Super Cup in coach Ernesto Valverde’s first two games in charge back in August.
Back then Barca were mired in institutional crisis caused by Neymar’s departure. Yet, Valverde has cannily reconstructed the Catalans around a sold defensive base that has conceded just eight goals in that 24-game unbeaten run and relied on the brilliance of Messi going forward.
“It’s true that at the time we had just lost an important player for the team and we had the negative result here that conditioned the tie. At their place, they played very well and were the better team,” said Valverde.
“Since then we have got better bit-by-bit and got the results that mean we are top of the league.”
The tension on the field could be accompanied by an even more hostile atmosphere for Barca than normal in the capital in the wake of regional elections in Catalonia that saw three parties favouring independence for the region from Spain retain an absolute majority in the Catalan parliament.
However, Valverde played down concerns as Barca also visited to Madrid to face Atletico in October without problems amid heightened political tension following violent clashes in a banned independence referendum called by separatists.
“The atmosphere tomorrow will be good, I have no doubt about that,” he added.
“We went to play at Atletico Madrid close to October 1 when there was a lot of talk about the reception we would get and I think as a football man it is one of the best atmospheres I have seen. There was a good feeling between the teams, the fans and I expect tomorrow will be the same.
“Logically the Bernabeu will support their team, but I think it will be a good game.”