Zinedine Zidane believes Cristiano Ronaldo’s inspirational leadership will be the decisive factor when Real Madrid bid for Champions League final history against Juventus on Saturday.
Ronaldo is firmly in the spotlight as Zidane’s side try to become the first club to win consecutive European Cup finals since AC Milan 27 years ago.
While some criticised Ronaldo for his erratic performances in Real’s Champions League final victories over Atletico Madrid, he still scored the winning penalty in last year’s showpiece and also netted in the 2014 title match.
Ronaldo has been in transcendent form once again this season, reaching 400 career goals for Real as the team won the Spanish title for the first time in five years.
And Zidane is adamant the 32-year-old Portuguese forward’s ferocious will to win is key to Real’s success because he sets such high standards that his teammates feel obliged to keep up.
“He’s a good person, he worries about the others, and what’s really important is what he does professionally,” Zidane told a press conference at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Friday.
“He always wants more. Even if he is playing in a training session he wants to win there as well.
“He’s got something inside. He’s a born leader, especially on the pitch.
“What’s most important for me is he wants to win.”
Zidane has his own special place in Real’s storied history after scoring the winner in the 2002 Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen, a triumph that marked the high point of the ‘Galacticos’ era at the Bernabeu.
But the former France star has no doubt Ronaldo, who has also won two La Liga titles and two Fifa Club World Cups with Madrid, will have proved himself to be the more valuable of the two Real legends by the time he retires.
Asked who was the better player, Zidane said: “Cristiano Ronaldo, no doubt, because he scores goals and that’s the most important.”
If Real win on Saturday, Zidane will be the first manager to win back to back European Cups since AC Milan’s Arrigo Sacchi in 1989 and 1990.
The 44-year-old has defied critics who claimed his soft-spoken personality would make it impossible for him to cope with a squad of fragile egos and the constant behind the scenes politicking in the club’s corridors of power.
Now Zidane is on the brink of an historic achievement he would have found impossible to imagine when he was a youngster kicking a ball around the streets of Marseille.
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