Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has credited Zinedine Zidane’s appointment as Real Madrid head coach as the catalyst for “one of the best seasons” of his illustrious football career.
Reports in Spain suggested Ronaldo had an uneasy relationship with Real’s former head coach Rafael Benitez, who was replaced by Zidane in January.
Benitez drew plenty of criticism for a perceived negative style of football at Madrid. But under Zidane, the club finished the domestic season by winning 12 straight games to lose out on the LaLiga title by one point to Barcelona, while they also won the Champions League following a dramatic penalty shoot-out win over Atletico Madrid.
Ronaldo went on to clinch a first major international title with Portugal at Euro 2016 and the 31-year-old’s success with club and country makes him the favourite to take home the Best Player in Europe award on Thursday.
And the former Manchester United star hailed Zidane’s arrival for his success last term.
“We didn’t start well last season, but the end was happy. I think everything improved with Zidane’s arrival. We won the Champions League and I was top scorer and that was probably one of the best seasons in my career,” Ronaldo was quoted as saying by Croatian newspaper 24sata.
“Looking at trophies only, it was sure my best season. I also won Euro 2016 with Portugal, which was an exceptional success for me.”
Ronaldo is on the three-man shortlist for the Best Player in Europe award along with club-mate Gareth Bale and Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann, with the winner to be announced in Monaco at the Champions League draw.
But, while saying it is a “privilege” to be nominated, Ronaldo insisted team honours are more important than individual accolades.
“It is privilege to be alongside Bale and Griezmann and fight for this award. Since this trophy has been introduced, I am always there, winning three nominations. This is proof I’ve had a great season, not just individually but also with my teams. It was great to lift the Champions League trophy with Real,” the Portuguese added.
“It would mean very much to me if I won the Best Player in Europe award. But it is more important that we won trophies as a team.”
Lionel Messi won the Best Player in Europe award in 2015 but did not make it on to the three-man shortlist this year despite Barcelona winning La Liga and Argentina reaching the Copa America final.