Zidane can bring out best in Ronaldo

Real Madrid have been in fine form since Zinedine Zidane was installed as the club’s head coach, winning four and drawing one of their five games with the Frenchman in charge.

Zidane has been quick to praise Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored five goals across the course of those five games. The form has helped to keep Real hot on the heels of La Liga leaders Barcelona and second-placed Atletico Madrid during a tricky transitional period at the Bernabeu club.

An injury to Gareth Bale left Zidane short of a full arsenal of attacking talents for his start to life in club management, but the World Cup winner has been cool about his comeback. He has allowed Bale to take his time in returning to full fitness, and it is only because Ronaldo has been in such fine form that there has been no rush to bring back the Welshman.

The football betting at the time of writing makes Real 8/1 to win La Liga, but the manner in which they have been performing at home suggests those odds could be shortened in the coming weeks.

Their performance in a 6-0 win over Espanyol at the Bernabeu was utterly imperious, and the entire team oozed the kind of confidence normally associated with champions.

Within just 16 first-half minutes against Espanyol, Real raced to a 3-0 lead thanks to wonderfully simple goals from Karim Benzema and James Rodriguez, and a 12th minute penalty kick that was slammed home with aplomb by Ronaldo.

The rest of the game was the Cristiano show, with the 31-year-old constantly on the lookout for more goals, giving the visitors no respite. Ronaldo might not possess the pace he had as a younger man, and the mazy dribbles of his youth are becoming a rare sight. But his presence, sheer power and his ability to finish every half chance that comes his way remain undiminished and perhaps stronger than ever.

Anyone who watched Ronaldo against Espanyol will share the view of Aritz Aduriz, who recently spoke out in defence of the Portuguese against criticisms that have been thrown at him this season. Aduriz pointed to the statistics that back up Ronaldo’s form – 30 goals in 29 games in all competitions this season – and urged Spanish football to appreciate his talent while he is still playing.

Ronaldo has hinted that he will be at Madrid for at least a couple more seasons, and that prospect should excite the club’s fans immensely. While Ronaldo is not getting any younger, he is now playing under the guidance of a man who won everything during his playing career and knows what it’s like to have to perform under the weight of massive expectation.

Zidane, who retired from football at the age of 34, says Ronaldo can play on longer than he did due to the condition he keeps his body in. Another key to Ronaldo’s longevity at Real Madrid may be his sense of place in the side.

Zidane has helped Cristiano to feel like the top dog in a winning team, praising his performances, denouncing his critics, and boosting his confidence. If he can continue to keep Ronaldo happy when Bale returns to compete for the limelight then all will be well at the Bernabeu.