Real Madrid coach Rafael Benitez has responded to reports of a falling out with Cristiano Ronaldo by praising the star’s competitive spirit and insists Sergio Ramos will not be leaving the club.
A training ground incident in which Ronaldo responded angrily to Benitez disallowing one of his goals has been seized upon by the Spanish press and cited as an example of tension between the new head coach and the club’s most important player during their pre-season tour of Australia.
Speaking to a press conference prior to the International Champions Cup match against Manchester City, the former Liverpool and Napoli boss did not dismiss the subject out of hand, choosing instead to hail the Portugal captain’s will to win.
“I have had the opportunity this week to spend quite a few days with him,” he said.
“I can say that he is competitive, he likes to win and for that reason he is the best in the world, I would like all my players to have that desire to win and compete.
“You’ve all seen him train today and I think his performance will be up to scratch. I talk to all the players a lot. I have had the opportunity to talk to him too. We talked about football and yes, he is competitive.”
“Seeing Ronaldo up close training, I can see that’s he doing very well.”
Madrid centre-back Sergio Ramos, meanwhile, who is captaining the team early in Benitez’s tenure, continues to be linked with a move to Manchester United.
Pressed on whether or not the Spain international will start the new Liga season with the Blancos, the head coach said: “Yes, for me, 100 percent.
“Ramos is our player, he’s a key player for us, he’s the captain. I would like to see him [at the club] at the beginning of the season, because I think he will be crucial for us during the season.
“I insist that it is clear for both me and the club that Sergio will be here. Football is a curious world, but he will be playing for us next season.”
As for the comments made by United coach Louis van Gaal in the United States, hinting that the transfer can yet go ahead, Benitez added: “I have a lot of respect for Van Gaal, but Sergio will be staying with us.”
Midfielder Luka Modric, meanwhile, strongly expressed his desire to see Ramos remain with the 2013-14 Champions League winners.
“Well, I hope that he stays,” the former Tottenham Hotspur man said.
“He’s a very important part of the team. He’s our captain and our leader, both on and off the pitch. He’s happy where he is. He’s our captain and our leader and he’s staying where he is.”