MADRID: Cristiano Ronaldo gave Zinedine Zidane a ringing endorsement as Real Madrid coach after their 1-0 defeat by Atletico Madrid in the city derby at the Bernabeu on Saturday.
“He’s doing a phenomenal job,” Ronaldo told reporters. “He’s a very calm person, very optimistic and he is improving us. We must give him time.”
Atletico stunned Real with a goal by France striker Antoine Griezmann, inflicting on Zidane his first defeat in nine matches as coach in all competitions since he took charge last month.
Real are nine points behind leaders Barcelona, who host Sevilla on Sunday, with 12 matches to go in La Liga, while Atletico consolidated second place five points off the pace.
“Zidane has given us confidence although it is hard losing at home to Atletico. We played better than them but they were lucky to get a chance and score,” Ronaldo said.
“The fans are unhappy and we too,” he added after shouts from the home crowd demanding club president Florentino Perez’s resignation.
Former Real playmaker Zidane was appointed to his first senior coaching job early in the year by Perez, who sacked Rafa Benitez following a run of disappointing results.
“We always want to win but you can’t always. If we win the Champions League at the end of the season the fans will change their minds,” said Ronaldo.
“I hope it’s still possible to win the Champions, but not La Liga,” added the striker, echoing Zidane’s comment that the league title was now out of reach for Real.
Ronaldo was looking to added to his 22 Liga goals on Saturday and began the match alongside striker Karim Benzema, back from hip trouble that forced him to miss last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Malaga.
“I like to play with Karim and when he’s not there it’s more difficult,” Ronaldo said.
Benzema, who has 19 goals, came off at halftime and was replaced by teenager Borja Mayoral who was promoted to the first team squad by Zidane for the derby.