By Richard Martin
DORTMUND, Germany (Reuters) – Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane denied on Monday there was a rift between him and Cristiano Ronaldo after the team’s talisman appeared to react angrily to being substituted in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Las Palmas.
Ronaldo’s response to being taken off in the 72nd minute of the game has been the subject of much attention in the Spanish media in the build up to Tuesday’s heavyweight Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund.
Zidane, however, said the incident has already been forgotten.
“Everything is normal. Cristiano wasn’t the only one angry after the game but it’s over now and we are thinking about tomorrow’s game,” the Frenchman told a news conference on Tuesday.
“I understand the level of attention it received but it is what it is. I took the decision in the best (interests) of the player and that’s not going to change anything.
“We have spoken about it. I’m not dumb and he’s intelligent. We all have the same objectives, the two of us and the rest of the team.”
Ronaldo, the all-time top scorer in the competition with 94 goals, has struggled to regain fitness and form since limping off in the Euro 2016 final with a knee injury.
The prolific Portuguese has averaged over a goal per game in his seven seasons with Real but has made a slow start to his eighth campaign, missing three games with injury and scoring two goals in four appearances, completing 90 minutes twice.
Dortmund coach Tuchel said his team will not be any less wary of Ronaldo in Tuesday’s Group F match at Signal Iduna Park.
“You cannot declare that Cristiano Ronaldo is not on form, full stop,” Tuchel said.
“Who said Cristiano is out of form? And what does that mean? I can’t give a concrete answer but Cristiano is one of the best players in the world. He is an incredible player, a born winner.
“He can be decisive for his team at any moment in a game and that’s why we’re expecting to face the best Real Madrid side possible. It’s a Champions League night in Dortmund and the best players bring their best performances on nights like these.”
Real’s strong start to the season has been punctured by two consecutive draws, which interrupted a joint La Liga record of 16 straight wins.
Their problems have been worsened by injuries to midfield anchor Casemiro and left back Marcelo, who will both miss the game against Dortmund.
(Editing by Rex Gowar)