Real Madrid manager Rafa Benitez has hailed Cristiano Ronaldo as “the best player in the world right now” ahead of Tuesday night’s Champions League opener against Shakhtar Donetsk.
Ronaldo had failed to score this season before Saturday’s trip to Espanyol, but he struck five times at Cornella-El Prat as Madrid racked up a 6-0 win.
“He is one of the best [I’ve ever coached], but I can’t say if he is the best because I have coached some very good players,” Benitez said in a press conference on Monday.
“Right now, though, he is the best player in the world.”
The Portuguese forward’s five-goal haul helped him pass Los Blancos legends Alfredo Di Stefano (227) and Raul Gonzalez (228) to become the club’s all-time leading goal scorer in La Liga with 231.
However, Benitez wouldn’t be drawn into comparing the three.
“I didn’t get the chance to watch Di Stefano in action, although I have been told he was a competitive player, as was Raul — Cristiano is just like them,” the Madrid coach added.
Ronaldo’s return to form is good news for the Benitez, who will also have been happy with Gareth Bale’s performance at the weekend.
The Welshman, playing in a role which grants him more freedom this season, created two of Ronaldo’s goals and won a penalty against Espanyol.
“They have freedom to move,” Benitez explained.
“We are creating moves in which players have to pass and move, so we have spoken to them both about the moves they have to make.
“Bale has pace and Cristiano drifts inside and the balance with James [Rodriguez], Isco and [Karim] Benzema is designed to create problems for our rivals.”