Irate Ronaldo admits he barely spoke to Giggs, Scholes and Ferdinand at Man United
Cristiano Ronaldo's patience snapped yesterday over Barcelona's Three Amigos when it was put to him that Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar have the edge over Real Madrid's forwards because they get on so well.
Madrid's all-time record scorer was wound up by one too many questions about his Barcelona nemesis when speaking ahead of tonight's Champions League last-16 tie against Roma.
"How do we know that (their relationship) is that way? It is only because that is what is written," he said when asked if the fact that Suarez, Messi and Neymar were friends off the pitch gave them an advantage over Real Madrid's front three of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Ronaldo.
"When I was at United, I didn't speak (off the pitch) to (Ryan) Giggs, (Paul) Scholes and (Rio) Ferdinand apart from the normal 'good morning' but we won the Champions League.
"We talked on the pitch and that is all that mattered. Does it matter that I don't go out for dinner with Benzema or that Bale does not come around my house? It is not important."
When his own form was questioned, Ronaldo said: "I would like to continue this form that you say is so bad until the end of the season."
Ronaldo has scored 32 goals this season but his critics argue he now struggles against top teams and away from home. In 30 games in all competitions he has failed to score in 15 matches and his last 16 goals have all been scored at the Bernabeu.
When asked about this run ahead of tonight's tie in Rome, he said: "Since I have been in Spain, name one player who has scored more goals than me away from home."
When no one responded, he added: "You don't have one," and left the table before his answer could be translated into Italian by the UEFA interpreter, surprising even his own coach Zinedine Zidane who was sitting next to him in the press conference room.
Zidane is seen as the cure for so many of Real Madrid's ills, so it is little wonder that it is almost taken for granted that he will bring an end the club's 29-year failure to win a two-legged European tie against Italian opposition.
Scorer of the club's definitive Champions League goal - that guided-missile volley at Hampden in 2002 from Roberto Carlos' pass - he has united supporters, settled players and looked just as dazzling in training sessions as he did a decade ago in his pomp as a player.
They still have Zidane on a pedestal a couple of inches higher than Ronaldo, whose incredible 17 goals in one Champions League campaign, including a penalty in the final, gave them their long pined-after 'Decima' in 2014.
Asked about the form of his most prolific forward last weekend, the Real Madrid coach said: "I don't know if I can say this but 'de puta madre'."
Translating swear words is never easy but 'f***ing magic' probably best sums up the spirit of the somewhat industrial language chosen.
Zidane has been given an easier ride than Rafa Benitez in his first six games in charge.
Four of those matches have been home wins with 20 goals scored in total. But in away matches with Granada and Betis - games that produced a narrow victory and a draw - the old demons that haunted Benitez don't appear to have been properly exorcised.
And this is not just any away day - this is Italy, land of that 29-year curse.
Real were beaten in a European Cup semi-final by Milan in 1989 and they lost again to Milan in the quarter-finals of the same competition a year later.
In the 1991-'92 season, they were beaten by Torino in the UEFA Cup and they then embarked on a Juventus nightmare. They beat La Vecchia Signora in the 1998 final but over two legs there were losses against them in 1996, 2003 and 2005.
They also lost to Roma in 2008 when the club was coached by Luciano Spalletti - as it will be tonight - while last season they were turned over by Juventus again.
Roma, however, will not be the most difficult Italian opponents they have faced. They were beaten 6-1 by Barcelona at the Camp Nou in the group stages, although Spalletti has lifted them since taking over.
La Liga is slipping from Real's grasp and they tend to be at their most dangerous in the European Cup when the domestic prize is not on offer to distract them. James Rodriguez is the player whose quality perhaps most resembles that of his coach.
A mixture of injury, poor form, fatigue from international call-ups and falling out with Benitez has had a detrimental effect on his season and he has played only 64 minutes of the competition so far. But with Gareth Bale out of tonight's clash, Rodriguez will link up with Ronaldo and Benzema behind Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.
Real will miss Bale's powerful running but there is magic in that quintet of ball-players.
Holding the baton on the touchline will be a manager making his Champions League debut out to end a curse that stretches for almost three decades as he does so. (© Independent News Service)
Roma v Real Madrid, Live, RTE2/BT Sport Europe, 7.45
Independent News Service