Cristiano Ronaldo has admitted the Real Madrid squad are much happier under French legend Zinedine Zidane than in Rafael Benitez’s unhappy seven-month spell in charge.
Zidane’s dream start in charge continued with a 5-1 thrashing of Sporting Gijon on Sunday with three-time World Player of the Year Ronaldo scoring twice as did Karim Benzema.
Gareth Bale continued his great form with the opening goal before hobbling off with the recurrence of a calf problem.
Benitez’s reign ended after just 25 games amid rumours of dressing room discontent, and Ronaldo confirmed the former Liverpool manager didn’t have the same regard among Madrid’s star-studded squad as Zidane, who was a Ballon d’Or winner himself as a player.
“Zidane has been a boost for team. Truthfully, with some coaches you have more empathy than others,” said Ronaldo.
“I did my job naturally under Benitez, I was serious and did the best for the club, independent of the person who is in charge of the team.
“I have never had a bad opinion of Rafa. He always did the best for Madrid, but he sees football in a different way from Zizou. Don’t ask me why, but the players feel more empathy for Zidane.”
However, the Portuguese captain denied the players had deliberately got Benitez the sack.
“Players don’t do that kind of thing. At least I don’t, independent of the empathy, you have to be serious in your job. The players are more enthused now with Zizou.”
Benitez’s appointment was an unpopular one from the start with the players unhappy at the sacking of his predecessor Carlo Ancelotti.
Zidane worked under the Italian as assistant manager as Madrid won their 10th European Cup in 2013/14 and Ronaldo seems similarities between Zidane and Ancelotti’s coaching syles.
“His training sessions are similar. He is a calm person, but serious at his job and off the pitch he is fun.
“He has a connection with the players and I am very happy. It is an interesting time for me and the players. We are in good form and working hard.”
The only sour note on another rousing victory for Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu after a 5-0 thrashing of Deportivo la Coruna on Zidane’s bow as coach last weekend were injuries suffered by Bale and Benzema.
“Disappointed to come off, will work hard to get back on the pitch!” Bale posted on his official Twitter account.
“Karim just has a knock, which isn’t so bad,” said Zidane.
“Gareth is a little more complicated because it is his calf and in his left leg which is a problem.
“He will have a scan tomorrow and we hope it is nothing serious.”
Madrid got off to a flying start as Bale, Ronaldo (2) and Benzema put the hosts 4-0 inside 18 minutes before Benzema made it 5-0 at the break.
“You can always improve, but the first-half was spectacular,” said the Frenchman.
“We had everything; good play, defensive work and we are going to improve because physically we need to improve a lot.
“We want to win games, but, above all, win at the end of the season because that is when the titles are decided.”