REAL MADRID

No rest for Cristiano Ronaldo, he's played every minute possible

The Real Madrid star hasn't missed a single minute of the games he's been available for, having played 2,700 minutes. He's scored goals too, but not so many away from home.

Cristiano Ronaldo

When Zidane was asked after the 4-2 against Athletic how he thought Cristiano had played he let fly with a rather less than delicate expression: “Can you say fucking great? Well, just like that”. Zizou has known how to support his biggest star since he took over in the dug-out on January 4. No ambiguous messages from him. But it’s interesting that Benítez, who seemed to struggle to whisper sweet nothings to the Portuguese striker, and Zidane are completely in agreement on the issue of the importance of the player: Cristiano has played 100% of the available minutes under the two of them.

In Liga (24 games) and Champions (6), the number 7 has been on the pitch the whole time: 2,700 minutes. It’s also true that in 15 of these 30 games (half!) he failed to score (13 in Liga and the 2 games against PSG). But with his goals coming in concentrated bursts in the other games he’s managed 32 goals in the 30 games, reaching his usual goal a game ratio.

Happy hunting ground - at the Bernabúe.

The 21 in Liga put him out in front as top scorer, while 11 in Champions gave him the record for the group phase. With Zidane he has a fluid, back-and-forth dialogue (as witnessed on Saturday during the Athletic match), and he’s benefited from the mini pre-season Zidane instituted to get the players into shape ahead of the toughest parts of the season.

But there’s something that should be worrying the superstar somewhat: his last 16 goals have all come at the Bernabéu. And so his next challenge is Rome. This Wednesday in the Champions League. The team needs him to score away from home. Since the double in Lviv against Shakhtar and the penalty in Ipurua against Eibar on 30 November he’s not scored away from the Bernabéu. He drew a blank on the trips to Villarreal, Valencia, Betis and Granada. His decline in this aspect is marked. Last season, when he top scored with 48 goals, he got 23 away from home, almost half. This week he’s going to Rome and Málaga. Will he break his poor away form?