Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane dismissed criticism of his side’s talisman Cristiano Ronaldo on Friday following a dip in form that has coincided with Real losing two consecutive games after setting a Spanish record unbeaten run of 40 games.
Ronaldo struggled to influence Real’s 2-1 home defeat at by Celta Vigo in the King’s Cup on Wednesday and the 2-1 reverse to Sevilla last Sunday that cut their lead at the top of La Liga to a point, although he did convert a penalty.
The forward recently won the 2016 Ballon d’Or and FIFA’s The Best accolade for leading Real to last season’s Champions League and captaining Portugal to glory at Euro 2016. He has 12 goals in La Liga this season, two behind top scorers Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.
The Portuguese, however, has attracted renewed criticism in the Spanish media for his lack of impact in big games, failing to find the net against Barcelona, Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao, although he did net a hat-trick against local rivals Atletico Madrid.
“Cristiano is always going to be criticised, when he doesn’t score or when he plays in a different position, but he’s used to that, he’s focused like everyone else on the next game,” former Real midfielder Zidane told a news conference on Friday ahead of the game against Malaga.
“He’s always going to be the player that makes the difference for this team. Sometimes he might play badly, that used to happen to me sometimes, but so what? The important thing is that he keeps working hard.”
Although Zidane was critical of his side following the loss to Celta, lamenting their lack of intensity and concentration, he said he was relaxed about the team’s form despite suffering two successive defeats for the first time as Real coach.
“This is football, you can’t win all the time, just like in life. My mind is only focused on work and thinking how we can improve. There was room for improvement before we had lost. We have to focus more, but I’m not worried,” he added.
“There’s no rule saying you can never slip up again. I’m always under pressure, I knew that when I signed my contract, I will always feel it until the day I leave but it makes me grow stronger every day.”
Real will be without Colombia midfielder James Rodriguez due to a calf injury against Malaga and Dani Carvajal, who has been ruled out for a month with a hamstring problem. Gareth Bale and Pepe are still sidelined.