Sergio Ramos has brushed off Cristiano Ronaldo's criticism of his fellow Real Madrid players and insisted he is proud of all his team-mates.
Ronaldo claimed after the 1-0 derby defeat to Atletico Madrid that "if the rest of the Madrid players were as good as him, perhaps they would be first" in La Liga while also suggesting the likes of Jese Rodriguez, Lucas Vazquez and Mateo Kovacic were not of the standard required to win trophies.
The setback against Diego Simeone's men left third-placed Madrid nine points behind leaders Barcelona, who also have a game in hand, and four adrift of Atleti and led to some fans at the Santiago Bernabeu turning on president Florentino Perez.
Ronaldo's words are unlikely to improve Madrid's already-fragile morale but Ramos insisted the Portuguese meant nothing by it.
He told AS: "If anyone knows Cristiano, it is me. I don't think he wanted to attack any of his team-mates but perhaps he did not express his opinion in the best way.
"As captain I feel proud of my team-mates' work and in difficult times we must emphasise this. But everyone is free to have an opinion.
"I think when results go against you there is more negativity, more excuses and more opinions. It is tough, we have lost a derby and the league is now almost impossible. We still have the Champions League and we are hoping to play well in that."
Ramos was also quick to offer his backing to Jese and Vazquez, adding: "We are proud of the youngsters who have come in and are desperate for an opportunity like Lucas and Jese."