Zidane defends under-fire Ronaldo


Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has defended Cristiano Ronaldo in the wake of recent criticism and has stressed the Portugal international remains the best in the world.

The 30-year-old has already netted 25 goals in as many games in all competitions, but has been less decisive than in recent seasons and has been subjected to jeers from the Santiago Bernabeu crowd on occasions.

He was also dethroned as the best player in the world by Barcelona ace Lionel Messi during Monday's FIFA Ballon d'Or ceremony, but Zidane has insisted he is happy with the prolific attacker.

"Ronaldo is doing just fine," the Madrid boss said at a media conference.

"He has my full support. I am very satisfied with him. Ronaldo is still the best in the world for me.

"He is a decisive player. There is always a lot of talk about him, but I am happy with him."

Ronaldo will be looking to add to his tally when Madrid take on Sporting Gijon on Sunday, but Zidane has warned they will not be pushovers.

"We have to be at our best. We know that Sporting are doing well," he added. "It is important to kill the match off as soon as possible.

"We are not afraid of Sporting, but it will not be an easy game."

Zidane left James Rodriguez out of his starting XI for last week's win over Deportivo la Coruna, but the Colombia international could return versus Gijon.

Sergio Ramos, however, remains unavailable and will be replaced by Raphael Varane.

"James will be part of the squad. I will not say right now whether he will play or not," Zidane continued.

"Sergio Ramos is getting better, but we have decided not to risk him. He will return to the group next week. Varane has evolved and has changed for the better in recent years. He will play on Sunday. "

The Madrid coach also touched on rumours Fabio Coentrao could be recalled from his loan spell at Monaco, as well as suggestions they could table an offer for Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba.

"I have a good relationship with Coentrao, but I am happy with the squad I have at the moment," Zidane stressed.

"Pogba is an extraordinary player, but I will focus on the players that are at this club. They are the ones who can win us games."