MADRID • Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has insisted three-time World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo still has plenty more years at the top of the game thanks to his superb physical condition.
Ronaldo turned 31 on Friday and has been questioned for his failure to deliver his best performances in the big games this season despite scoring a remarkable 30 goals in 28 games so far.
Zidane retired at Madrid at just 34, but believes Ronaldo has the physical capabilities to go on longer, and hopes he also finishes his career at the Santiago Bernabeu.
"All being well, Cristiano can play longer than me for sure," said the Frenchman yesterday. "He feels the responsibility to look after himself and you can see it. He is 31, but physically he is a beast.
"He can continue for many more years and hopefully they are here in Madrid."
He also highlighted his admiration for the exacting standards the Portuguese star sets himself, having scored 343 goals in 328 games since joining Madrid seven years ago.
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"I feel admiration towards him, for the goals he scores, for everything he does, because all lovers of football also adore Cristiano," added Zidane. "Above all, I like his ambition. His ambition to always want more and to be better. He is never happy with what he has and you see that in training.
"I admire him and I hope that he will continue like this because he is an important player for me, the players and all Madrid fans."
Zidane has an impressive record of three wins and a draw from four games since taking over from Rafael Benitez last month and Madrid continue their chase of Barcelona in the Primera Liga title race at Granada today.
However, Zidane insisted he will not rush Gareth Bale back from a calf injury, with the Welshman being protected ahead of Madrid's return to Champions League action against Roma on Feb 17.
"We have preferred to wait a little because he is better but not completely recovered," he said. "It was best for him to go bit by bit."