Cristiano Ronaldo is happy to be rotated out of the Real Madrid line-up in order to preserve his fitness, according to head coach Zinedine Zidane.
Ronaldo was absent from the 18-man squad as Madrid eased to a 3-0 Copa del Rey win over Sevilla on Wednesday, but the four-time Ballon d’Or winner will return for the visit of Granada in LaLiga on Saturday.
Zidane is keen to ensure the 31-year-old superstar is fresh to play a full part in the key matches as his team battle for trophies on multiple fronts and insists the player himself is on board with the tactic
“We have spoken, Ronaldo and I, about rotation,” he told a pre-match news conference, where Madrid will look to go 39 games unbeaten and match the record of their bitter rivals Barcelona.
“I think the press have to realise that this is a very intelligent player. My idea is that he’s in good shape throughout the season.
“Playing 20 games maybe in 70 days is a lot. Every now and then he needs to rest and he agrees with me so there’s no problem there.
“Of course he’s a footballer and he wants to play week in, week out, every game. But we talked it through.”
Despite not being involved against Sevilla, Ronaldo was a visible presence at the Santiago Bernabeu in midweek, warmly congratulating his team-mates in the tunnel as they left the field.
“Ronaldo is a leader both on and off the pitch. He’s always there greeting team-mates before the game, congratulating his team-mates after the game,” Zidane explained.
“He’s a huge part of the team even when he doesn’t play. Cristiano Ronaldo knows he has got a very important role to play.
“He’s got lots of positive energy which he transmits to the rest of his team-mates and it’s important. He’s a leader, a true leader.”
Despite enjoying a decorated 2016, debate over Ronaldo’s best position as he enters the autumn of his career continues to swirl – the relentless dynamism of old giving way to a more pragmatic penalty-box presence.
Whether he is deployed as a wide attacker or centre-forward, Zidane was keen to point out the results tend to be similarly prolific.
“Cristiano can play anywhere,” he added. “He’s been playing maybe more as a striker but he can play anywhere – out on the wing, like he has been playing in the past.
“It’s not decided who will be playing there [against Granada]. It’s something we are doing at the moment, we will see.
“It is difficult to score more goals than Cristiano has been scoring but hopefully he can score more.”