Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said people write off Cristiano Ronaldo at their peril after the Portuguese forward struck twice in the 5-0 drubbing of Sevilla on Saturday as the La Liga champions and their prolific scorer roared back to life.
Ronaldo has been widely criticised in Spain for his domestic form this season and before the game with Sevilla he had only scored twice in the league, his lacklustre form mirroring Real’s feeble defence of the title they won so convincingly last May.
Ronaldo was crowned world player of the year for a joint-record fifth time on Thursday and showed off his shiny Ballon d’Or trophy on the Bernabeu pitch before kick off and when the game began he appeared to have an extra spring in his step.
He latched onto a through ball from Marco Asensio to confidently sidefoot the ball inside the near corner to score Real’s second goal midway through the first half and then powered home the third from the penalty spot, his shot bouncing under Sevilla goalkeeper Sergio Rico.
“It has been a perfect week for him and I hope he continues at this pace, although I already said you have to be careful with him,” Zidane told a news conference.
Ronaldo also scored in Real’s 3-2 win over Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday to become the first player ever to score in all six Champions League group games in one season.
“I don’t say that for no reason, I know him well and I see how ambitious he is every day in training, he knows he’s going to score. Sometimes it doesn’t come off for him and no-one is happy about that, but you always have to be careful with him.”
Zidane also praised Ronaldo’s overall play, as the Portuguese helped tee-up 19-year-old right back Achraf Hakimi for the fifth goal of the game before the halftime whistle.
“After watching the game we can safely say we have got him back,” added the coach after Real moved to within five points of La Liga leaders Barcelona, who visit Villarreal on Sunday.
“We’re very happy with the performance as it’s not easy to score five goals against Sevilla. I hope we can keep scoring, we’ve scored eight goals in our last two games and we have to keep going like this.
“We’re growing in every sense and playing better. When you play better you create more chances, we created a lot today and scored five times, for the first time this season (in the league).”
Real left back Marcelo added: “For me, Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player in the world. I never saw (Diego) Maradona or Pele play but I know you can’t compare anyone to him.
“We’re privileged to live in the same era as (Lionel) Messi and Cristiano, each own has his own story and attributes, but I prefer Cristiano.”