MADRID • Newly-appointed Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has warned that star striker Cristiano Ronaldo will not leave the club during his tenure.
"Cristiano is more than untransferable, he's the soul of this Madrid. As long as I'm here he won't leave," the Frenchman told a press meet ahead of his first game in charge against Deportivo La Coruna today.
"Cristiano will play along the wing and he'll play whatever happens. I'm going to give few instructions to Cristiano, his record talks for itself. The only thing I want is that he feels happy, at ease."
Real's all-time leading scorer, who turns 31 next month, reportedly felt ill at ease with Zidane's predecessor Rafael Benitez. And the forward fuelled speculation concerning his future by stating several times that he is uncertain what he would do next season.
This is a difficult but stimulating challenge, I want to take up the challenge and do my utmost to win titles.
ZINEDINE ZIDANE , on Real Madrid's aim to win the La Liga title.
Zidane, who took over from Benitez last Monday, said that he would not be making transfer requests.
"Possible departures, I don't think and I don't want. Signings neither, I have an important group and am satisfied with it," he said.
Ten years after his last official appearance on the Santiago Bernabeu pitch, former playmaker Zidane will have a baptism of fire against Deportivo in what is expected to be a sold-out stadium today.
Deportivo's La Liga visit will be his first match in senior management, having previously only coached Real's feeder team Castilla for the past 18 months.
The French legend has a tough task if he is to deliver only Real's second league title in eight years with them trailing leaders Atletico Madrid by four points and Barcelona by two.
"This is a difficult but stimulating challenge, I want to take up the challenge and do my utmost to win titles," said Zidane. "I will be satisfied with winning everything."
Zidane's attacking football may be welcomed by the players but he will need to deliver results he was unable to achieve when in charge of the club's reserve team.
James Rodriguez and Isco are set to be two of the main beneficiaries from the arrival of Zidane, who has shown versatility in his limited coaching career but prefers a 4-2-3-1 formation similar to that employed by Jose Mourinho at Real.
Both had their options limited under Benitez, who opted for a more solid approach and often employed the defensive Carlos Casemiro in a three-man midfield where Toni Kroos was also told to sit deep.
"James and Isco are both important players, so I am trying to give them a lot of support and confidence," Zidane said.
"The players are happy and concentrated on working hard. They want to change certain things and we have been working on this."
One of the main concerns for the club, though, will be Zidane's lack of success with the Real B team and not being able to get the best out of their top players.
After being an assistant to Carlo Ancelotti, Zidane became coach of the reserves last season following their relegation to the third tier of Spanish football and his inability to win promotion has generally been regarded as a failure.
The B team currently lie second in the table but have just one win since mid-November.
Zidane has struggled to get the best out of talented young players and they have suffered the same problem as the first team with a lack of connection between the midfield and attack.
Deportivo will pose problems as they have lost only three times this season and have already taken points off Barcelona and Atletico.
"Real Madrid are one of the best teams in the world. The sacking of the coach will make them go for it from the start with Zidane as the new coach," said Deportivo striker Lucas Perez. "But we have shown in the Nou Camp, at Valencia and other difficult places that we will play with the same mentality to win games wherever they are."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS