Cristiano Ronaldo deserves more respect despite enduring his worst domestic campaign in Spain, says Zinedine Zidane.
The 32-year-old forward will equal Lionel Messi’s record of being named the best player in the world five times if, as expected, he picks up the Ballon d’Or award on Thursday.
Ronaldo fired Real Madrid to Champions League glory with hat-tricks against Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid in the quarter and semi-finals and a double in the 4-1 win over Juventus in the final.
But after just two goals in 10 La Liga games Ronaldo came under criticism from the Spanish media following Real’s goalless draw against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday which left the champions eight points behind leaders Barcelona.
“I think Cristiano deserves more respect because he is such a great player that when things don’t quite go his way everyone has something to say about him,” Zidane told a news conference on Tuesday ahead of Real’s final Champions League Group H game with Borussia Dortmund.
“The club and the fans who love Cristiano Ronaldo know what he is doing. Just last season he had a phenomenal campaign. We are halfway through the season, we still have six months left of the season. Six months is a very long time for Cristiano.”
Ronaldo has lived up to his high standards in the Champions League in which he is the top scorer with eight goals from five games and on course become the top marksman in Europe’s elite competition for a sixth straight year.
“For me he deserves to win the Ballon d’Or because he’s had an incredible year,” Real midfielder Mateo Kovacic said.
“I’m very happy for him, the Ballon d’Or means a lot to him and to us although the most important thing is that we win together as a team.
“I see Cristiano train every day and he is doing fine. He’s going to score a lot of goals this season. Right now the ball doesn’t want to go in for him, but there’s a long way to go and he’s going to start scoring again.”