MADRID (Reuters) - Cristiano Ronaldo deserves more respect, Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said on Tuesday as he backed the usually prolific Portuguese to come good in the second half of the season amid his worst domestic campaign in Spain.
Ronaldo has scored two goals in 10 league games and came in for criticism in the Spanish media for his display in Real’s goalless draw against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday which left the Liga champions eight points behind leaders Barcelona.
The 32-year-old is still expected to pick up the Ballon d’Or award on Thursday for firing Real to Champions League glory last season, scoring hat-tricks against Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid in the quarter and semi-finals and a double in the 4-1 win over Juventus in the final.
If he wins the award, Ronaldo will tie Lionel Messi’s record of being named the best player in the world five times.
“I think Cristiano deserves more respect because he is such a great player that when things don’t quite go his way everyone has something to say about him,” Zidane told a news conference on Tuesday ahead of Real’s final Champions League Group H game with Borussia Dortmund.
“The club and the fans who love Cristiano Ronaldo know what he is doing. Just last season he had a phenomenal campaign. We are halfway into the season, we still have six months left of the season. Six months is a very long time for Cristiano.”
Ronaldo has lived up to his high standards in the Champions League in which he is the top scorer with eight goals from five games and on course become the top marskman in Europe’s elite competition for a sixth straight year.
“For me he deserves to win the Ballon d’Or because he’s had an incredible year,” Real midfielder Mateo Kovacic said.
“I’m very happy for him, the Ballon d’Or means a lot to him and to us although the most important thing is that we win together as a team.
“I see Cristiano train every day and he is doing fine. He’s going to score a lot of goals this season. Right now the ball doesn’t want to go in for him, but there’s a long way to go and he’s going to start scoring again.”
Real are guaranteed to finish second in Group H behind Tottenham Hotspur, while Dortmund need to win to secure third spot in the group and a place in the Europa League as they are locked on two points with fourth-placed APOEL Nicosia but have a superior head-to-head record.
Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond