Tuesday 25 September 2018

Zidane: Fans will recall Ronaldo like they do Di Stefano

Real Madrid's French coach Zinedine Zidane. Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images
Real Madrid's French coach Zinedine Zidane. Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

Miguel Delaney

Zinedine Zidane believes Cristiano Ronaldo will leave a lasting legacy at Real Madrid like Alfredo Di Stefano has.

Ronaldo's brace in a 3-0 win against Juventus last week - which included an incredible overhead kick from the club's all-time leading scorer - has put Real firmly in charge of their Champions League quarter-final tie ahead of the return leg in Madrid tonight.

Ronaldo's second goal was so impressive that even Juve fans applauded it and Real president Florentino Perez called the 33-year-old the "great heir" to Di Stefano, who won five European Cups and scored 308 goals in 396 games between 1953 and 1964.

"I am not thinking about being without Cristiano Ronaldo, this is what we have and we are happy," Zidane said.

"There are many people who still remember Di Stefano and rightly so. I am one of those people. They will also remember Cristiano Ronaldo at this club. We must enjoy this player."

Juventus were beaten in last year's final by Zidane's side and are on the verge of being eliminated by them once again.

Closing

The Bianconeri are closing in on their seventh domestic title, while Real are only fourth in the table in Spain.

Asked if Serie A was weaker than La Liga, Zidane replied: "I don't think it is weak.

"I think La Liga is the best league to be in because every game is difficult - things can go awry right up to the final game."

It said much that the prospect of Juventus progressing was barely mentioned at the Spanish champions' pre-match press conference for the second leg.

The only mention was Raphael Varane's concession that "everything is possible in football". This, however, is less possible than most.

The lack of discussion about a comeback - something that has been very different, say, to the talk before Barcelona-Paris Saint-Germain last season - isn't completely down to the utter assurance that Real always have about this competition.

That assurance is only bolstered by the quality that makes them so good and, in turn, makes this task even more difficult for Juventus.

There's also the fact that this has never happened before. Although first-leg leads of at least three goals have been overturned 11 times in 63 years of the competition, they have never come when a side has lost that first leg at home.

So it boils down to this: Juventus have to go to the Bernabeu, to play a team as good as this, with an imperious scorer as on form as Ronaldo and win 3-0 to even force extra-time.

Asked whether Real are now outright favourites for the competition above Barça, Zidane said: "It is better for us not to talk about (that). I am just interested in showing it on the pitch, not talking.

"As for example, with the performance we put in against Atletico (on Sunday), we could even have lost the game. I cannot explain it, but that is football.

"You must respect all teams, as anything can happen. But if we are committed from minute one to minute 90 we have a big chance to go through (against anyone)."

For neutrals to indulge in what probably amounts to fantasy, though, there are at least some realistic ways it could get close; if Juventus got an early goal, if Real's defence suddenly looks a bit suspect without the absent Sergio Ramos. We've heard it all before in the build-up to such games.

But we've also seen it all before in Real Madrid Champions League games: they can be under pressure, under duress and then that 'Hala Madrid' song plays on the speakers as a Ronaldo, who had previously been quiet, scores yet again.

Don't be surprised if it happens tonight but Di Stefano's heir has likely already proven the difference in this tie. (© Independent News Service)

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