Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane insists that he and Cristiano Ronaldo decided together that the forward needed to be rested more this season.
The 32-year-old has played every minute of his side’s route to a second Champions League final in two years but was rested for nine matches in their title-winning LaLiga campaign, being substituted on five occasions.
The Portugal star, who has been used more as a centre-forward than a winger this term, has spoken of changes he has made to his training regime to ensure he has been fully fit for the decisive games of the season over the past month.
Although Ronaldo has not always looked impressed at being taken off, Zidane says that his playing time has been carefully regulated as a result of discussions over his fitness.
“Yes, of course it’s a decision we made together, based on conversations we’ve had,” Zidane told UEFA. “We are intelligent and sometimes he needs to play a little less.
“It’s not because he’s not physically fit, but because he wants to reach the final phase of the season, when everything is at stake, in his best form.
“He’s played a lot this year, but there have been times when he’s been left out to have a break. Now he’s in fantastic shape.”
The method appears to have worked, with Ronaldo scoring six times in Madrid’s last four league games and eight in his last four in Europe.
“As you well know, there are no words that can do Cristiano Ronaldo justice,” Zidane said. “He shows what he’s all about every time he’s on the pitch, by scoring goals.
“He’s now got more than 400 goals for Real Madrid in all competitions These are unbelievable stats, but with him anything’s possible.”
Madrid face Juventus in the Champions League final on June 3 looking to become the first team to defend the trophy in its modern format.
Zidane, however, says his players do not need any extra motivation to win.
“The motivation simply comes from the fact that we are playing another Champions League final,” he said. “It will be a tough final and we’ll have to work hard and try to find that extra energy to have a good performance. I think we’ll be ready.
“Each final is different. It’s another final against a different team, in a different stadium and a different atmosphere. We know that we’ll have 90 minutes, maybe more, to try to win and that’s what we’ll try to do: give everything, as always. We’ll not change our way of doing things and we’ll see what happens.
“I’m happy to be the Real Madrid coach and to have had this opportunity. It’s not an easy job but it’s a passion for me. I’ve worked hard. I spent three or four years to prepare to become a coach. What we have achieved is due to the fact that we have wonderful players.”
The match in Cardiff will also see Zidane come up against another club where he enjoyed great success as a player and he expects it to be an encounter to remember.
“They’re having a great season. I’ll not talk about their strengths or weaknesses. We know they are a great team and they have proven it. It’ll be a wonderful final, between two teams that deserve to be there,” he said.
“It’ll be special for me. I was at Juventus for five years, a great club that helped me to develop and become a man, to grow as a person and as a player.
“Juventus will always have a special place in my heart but as soon as I start, I will be on the other side, with Real Madrid, and I’ll only be thinking about my team.”
Culled from FFT