Real Madrid’s Portuguese forward Christiano Ronaldo / AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI
Cristiano Ronaldo is itching to prove just why he deserved the Ballon d’Or by leading Real Madrid to another Club World Cup title, Zinedine Zidane said Wednesday.
The Portuguese superstar, voted the world’s best player for a fourth time earlier this week, will lead Real’s charge in Japan, where the European champions face Mexico’s Club America in Thursday’s semi-final.
“Cristiano is hugely motivated for this game — as always,” Real coach Zidane told reporters in Yokohama.
“He would be motivated even if it were a friendly, that’s just the sort of player he is.
“Obviously we have many great players at Real Madrid but it’s very rare one player wins so many awards,” added the Frenchman, whose side are chasing their second world title in three years this week.
“To win four Ballon d’Ors is a fabulous achievement and it’s not an easy thing to do. What he’s doing is absolutely incredible — maybe he deserves a fifth one too!”
Ronaldo closed on Lionel Messi’s record five awards after a remarkable year in which he helped Real dominate Europe for the 11th time and powered Portugal to European Championship glory.
The 31-year-old talisman, whose joy has been dampened by allegations of tax fraud, insisted that if he and Messi played for the same team, he would have scooped more accolades than his Argentine rival.
“It would be interesting to see both of us in the same team,” Ronaldo told Spanish media.
“I think great players should play together. If we were in the same team, I think I would have more than him, but he wouldn’t be far off.
“Everyone knows Messi is a great player,” he added. “He’s won five Ballon d’Ors.”
Zidane, whose Spanish table-toppers are currently on a club record 35-game unbeaten run, is set to leave out captain Sergio Ramos against Club America.
“I don’t think he will play tomorrow,” said Zidane, looking to bring Real a fifth world crown.
“It’s not a serious problem but he’s suffering some fatigue after the long journey and we don’t want to take the risk. We will keep him back for the final.”
Zidane, who is missing Gareth Bale as the Welshman recovers from ankle surgery, has warned his players against over-confidence against a Club America side celebrating their centennial season.
“For many of their players maybe it will be their only chance to play against Real Madrid and they will be desperate to win,” he said. “I have told the players we can’t just turn up and expect to win, we have to earn it.
“Club America have many skilful and intelligent players and I’m sure they will give us plenty of headaches,” added Zidane. “We expect a very difficult match but it’s just as important for us.”
Barring a huge upset, Real will face the winners of the competition’s first semi-final between Colombia’s Atletico Nacional and Japanese champions Kashima Antlers, that was being played in Osaka later on Wednesday.