With his relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo coming under fresh scrutiny, Real Madrid manager Rafa Benítez has backtracked on previous comments and hailed the Portuguese star as “the best player in the world.”
Ronaldo’s future at the Bernabeu has been called into question through much of the summer after he publicly backed former coach Carlo Ancelotti before the Italian was replaced by Benítez. Rumors of a move away resurfaced on Thursday when pictures emerged of Ronaldo losing his temper, apparently with Benítez’s methods, during a training session in Australia. That led to some tough questions for Benítez in a later press conference, but the Spaniard brushed them off and, unlike previously when he refused to be drawn on whether Ronaldo was the world’s best, paid his star man the ultimate tribute.
“Fortunately after working with him you can see how competitive he is and how keen he is to win,” he said, according to Madrid-based sports daily AS. “He has great quality and that’s what makes him the best player in the world. I wish all the players had the same enthusiasm to compete and win. He shows this on a day by day basis and I’m delighted with him.
“My relationship with him is the same as the rest of the players. I speak to them all. There are those who are speculating on this or that but I can assure you that the relationship is totally normal. He is a competitive guy and that’s the key. This is a positive thing not a defect.”
While, with three years left on his contract, there appears little prospect of Ronaldo departing Real Madrid this summer, there is far greater uncertainty regarding the future of Sergio Ramos. The versatile center-back, who has become the club’s captain following the exit of Iker Casillas, has expressed his desire to leave and join Manchester United but his future remains intertwined with that of United goalkeeper David de Gea. The Premier League giants have made it clear that De Gea will not be allowed to leave unless Ramos moves to Old Trafford.
Reports suggest that president Florentino Perez will meet with Ramos when the team arrives in China this weekend, but Benítez has already made his thoughts on the matter clear, including on United manager Louis van Gaal’s comments that a deal could still happen.
“Ramos is a key player for us and I really hope to have him for the season ahead as he will be crucial for us,” he said. “For me he’ll stay at the club. Football, though is like life, unpredictable, but I feel he’s a key player for this club. Van Gaal? I have plenty of respect for Van Gaal but my concern is that Sergio stays.”
With so much focus on the Ramos and De Gea saga, Real Madrid have been relatively quiet in acquiring players this summer. Since signing Porto right-back Danilo before the end of last season, the club has added only goalkeeper Kiko Casilla. But that could be about to change, with Marca reporting that Wolfsburg left-back Ricardo Rodríguez features prominently on the radar. The report states that Madrid are considering offloading Fabio Coentrao, with Rodríguez the club’s first choice to replace the Portugal international and compete with Marcelo for the left-back berth.
The 22-year-old Rodríguez has firmly established himself as one of world’s best players in his position thanks to starring performances in the Bundesliga and with Switzerland. An able defender, he is also superb going forward, evidenced by his 10 goals in all competitions last season. With Wolfsburg in Champions League, and Rodriguez under contract until 2019, there is a slim chance that the club will part ways with the young star.