MADRID: Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane insists he will continue to periodically leave out four-time world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo to keep the Portuguese fresh for the business end of the season.
Ronaldo has sat out Real’s last two home games — missing the visit of Deportivo la Coruna in December and a 3-0 Copa del Rey romp over Sevilla on Wednesday.
Zidane confirmed in midweek that Ronaldo will return for lowly Granada’s visit to the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.
However, with Real potentially facing a marathon streak of 20 games across three competitions in the next three months, Zidane said Ronaldo will have to accept being left on the sidelines from time to time.
“Cristiano is a very intelligent player,” said Zidane on Friday.
“My idea is that I want Cristiano to be in good condition throughout the season. Having 20 games in 70 days, sometimes he will have to rest.
“There is no problem. He always wants to play, but talking is how you achieve things.”
Zidane admitted towards the end of last season that he wished he had taken better care of Ronaldo as the former Manchester United man missed key matches in April, including a Champions League semi-final at Manchester City, due to muscle fatigue injuries.
Despite his absence against Deportivo and Sevilla, Ronaldo was still at the Bernabeu to support his teammates.
And Zidane hailed the leadership role the now 31-year-old Ronaldo has adopted.
“He is a leader on and off the field. He is here before and after the game, he is completely involved even when he doesn’t play,” added Zidane.
“Possibly you (the media) have noticed it less, but he has a tremendous energy and he transmits that to the rest. He is a real leader.”