The Real Madrid coach, Manuel Pellegrini, led the plaudits for Cristiano Ronaldo yesterday after the Portugal international went from villain to hero in the space of four days with his starring role in the Champions League match against Marseilles.
Ronaldo was sent off in last Saturday's La Liga match against Almeria for two avoidable yellow cards. The first was for taking his shirt off after scoring his side's fourth goal in the 84th minute and then four minutes later he was dismissed for kicking opponent Juanma Ortiz following a tussle near the touchline.
The world's most expensive player also drew attention to himself for not celebrating Karim Benzema's 82nd-minute goal when the Frenchman followed up to score after Ronaldo's penalty had been saved.
The Portugal international was again the centre of attention following Tuesday night's match against Marseilles, but this time for positive reasons as his two goals – including a brilliant long-range free-kick early on – helped Madrid to record a 3-1 win and secure top spot in Group C.
Pellegrini said of the £80m summer signing, who has only recently returned to action after almost two months out injured: "We all saw what happened with Cristiano Ronaldo on Saturday but he wasn't affected at all here. We knew that he's a great professional and that it wasn't going to affect his performance.
"Physically it's been very good for him to play 90 minutes, and it's very good for his morale to score two goals. I played Cristiano in a floating role in attack like I did with [Gonzalo] Higuain and Benzema. I wanted freedom for them and this makes them more dangerous and difficult to stop. Ronaldo translates that into goals."
Madrid's general director, Jorge Valdano, and the former France captain Zinedine Zidane also heaped praise on Ronaldo following his performance at the Stade Vélodrome. "Everyone knows that the presence of Cristiano makes us more powerful, more intimidating and he helps fill the whole team with confidence," Valdano said.
Marseilles-born Zidane, who played for Madrid between 2001 and 2006 and who was the world's most expensive transfer before this summer, added: "Cristiano is not just very good, he is phenomenal. He does fantastic things, at times even better then me.
"Only great players can score such a magnificent goal three minutes into a game. He makes a difference. Some players are different from the rest because they do what others can't."
The three-times Fifa World Player of the Year added of his former club: "Madrid looked very good to me, of course they can win a 10th European Cup. They have very good players, they are improving as a team and it's only been four months. I would've liked Marseilles to have also got through, but Madrid were superior.
"You can tell Pellegrini is gradually finding the right system. People should watch out for Real Madrid," he told the club's website.
Madrid will have to do without Ronaldo for this weekend's league trip to third-placed Valencia, though, as he serves a ban for his red card against Almeria. The defender Raul Albiol, who joined Real from Valencia this summer, admits they will miss Ronaldo, but is confident they can still come away from the Mestalla with a good result: "He is a phenomenon, but we have the players to play at the Mestalla and win there without him."Reuse content