Monday 16 December 2019

"If other players were at my level, we would be top" - Cristiano Ronaldo is not short of self-belief

Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrates
Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrates

Cristiano Ronaldo launched an astonishing criticism of his team-mates after Real Madrid lost 1-0 to local rivals Atletico, claiming: "If we were all at my level maybe we would be leaders."

Antoine Griezmann hit the only goal of the game in the 53rd minute to give Atletico a third consecutive league win at the Bernabeu, strengthening his side's grip on second place in the Primera Division table and stretching their lead over their local rivals to four points.

Speaking to reporters in the mixed zone after the game, Ronaldo criticised the performance of his team-mates and lamented the absence of injured players Gareth Bale, Marcelo, Pepe and Karim Benzema, the Frenchman forced off at half-time with a hip problem.

"If we were all at my level, maybe we would be leaders," Ronaldo said, quoted in Marca.

"I don't want to disrespect anyone, but when the best players aren't available it's harder to win. I like to play with Karim, with Bale, with Marcelo.

"I'm not saying the others like Lucas [Vazquez], Jese and [Mateo] Kovacic are not good players - they are very good players - but it's not the same."

The forward also hit out at the assembled journalists for their perceived criticism of his form, declaring: "For all you guys it seems I am s***, but I don't listen to what the press say. The statistics and numbers don't lie."

Coach Zinedine Zidane also gave a scathing assessment of Real's performance.

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"We were not as ready for the game as we thought we were. We needed to run more, against a rival who had played just three days earlier," Zidane told a press conference.

"In a game like this, you have to do more, run more, put our foot in more, do more. If you don't do this against the second-best team in the league, this is what happens."

He also questioned their mental strength.

"All I can say is that it's not just about our fitness," he said.

"The players are not unfit, it's a question of everything. We didn't play the game we had prepared.

"They played on Wednesday and had less time to recover, and look at the game they played. So it is a mental question. We lacked a bit of everything.

"I told the players that we have to keep on going, I can't be happy with this performance and neither are they, but we can't give up. I have a clear idea of what went wrong today."

Opposite number Diego Simeone said Atletico's 1-0 win was proof that collective effort can triumph over individual strength.

"This is a great moment to see that hard work, stability, collective effort and teamwork, rather than individual effort, pays off," the Atletico coach said in a press conference.

"Once again Atletico Madrid fans can feel proud of their team. Atletico continues to grow, building towards a better future, with young players who keep on improving. The truth is we are very happy to be a part of this Atletico team."

And the Argentine coach praised Griezmann, who before Saturday had not scored in the league since January 17 and had come in for criticism for failing to find the net against the top opponents.

"The good thing about Griezmann is that the reason why people expect so much of him is that he has earned that expectation," he added.

"And luckily, today he scored again."

PA Media

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