Zinedine Zidane’s decision to hook superstar forward Cristiano Ronaldo in Real Madrid’s 2-2 draw at Las Palmas in the Spanish La Liga on Saturday could be a statement of intent from the French manager.
Zidane revealed after the game that his decision to replace Ronaldo with Lucas Vazquez in the 72nd minute was tactical as he had one eye on Tuesday’s Champions League game in Germany and not because the 31-year-old three-time Ballon d’Or winner was playing badly.
“I did not take Cristiano off because he was playing badly, but because we play another game on Tuesday and he has to rest,” Zidane said.
“He was playing well, like the others, but I had to think about Tuesday.
“We have a game on Tuesday and I thought it was the time to take him off, 20 minutes from the end, thinking about Tuesday.
“I know he always wants to play and always wants to stay on the field, but I also have to think about the players and for me it was best to rest and think about Tuesday.”
Considering Ronaldo’s influence on the Los Blancos squad, one can only assume Zidane’s main priority for this season is to retain the Champions League trophy, something no team has done in Europe before.
Ronaldo’s substitution was the first in his seven-year Santiago Bernabeu career and the Portuguese was surprised to be taken off and was visibly unhappy as he trudged off the pitch and barely acknowledged his coach.
Zidane’s decision backfired though after Sergio Araujo scored a late equaliser to force a draw.
Ronaldo has scored just once in three La Liga outings this term and it seems the talisman is waning as he struggled against Palmas and failed to convert Alvaro Morata’s cutback before firing the ball straight at the goalkeeper in the build-up to Madrid’s second goal.
Madrid began their Champions League defence with a 2-1 win at Sporting Lisbon and will now face Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday night in their second group match at the Signal-Iduna-Park followed by the visit of Eibar on October 2nd.