Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo has hit out at the stylistic principles of Atletico Madrid, branding Diego Simeone’s side as unattractive and "defensive."
The Portuguese sensation was speaking in the aftermath of Los Blancos’ 4-2 aggregate defeat to their city rivals in the Copa del Rey. But while Ronaldo revealed that he’s not too keen on Atletico’s style of play, he admitted that they must be respected and that their renaissance is a positive thing for Spanish football, per Jose Luis Guerrero of AS:
Atleti don’t play attractive football. They are very defensive. They wait for dead-balls, but it works well for them. Their coach and players should be respected. ...
Atleti are a consistent team who have spent a long time together. Valencia are getting better and are a rival to watch out for. And then there are Madrid and Barcelona who are candidates for everything. This is good for La Liga.
Ronaldo’s second-half goal failed to inspire a fightback from his team, who have found it really difficult to get the better of the Rojiblancos in recent matches. As noted by Dermot Corrigan of ESPN, this is the third competition Atletico have topped their illustrious rivals in recently:
It’s natural Ronaldo was perhaps a little frustrated in the immediate aftermath of the game. Indeed, the former Manchester United man was poor by his impeccable standards, as Atletico were again able to nullify his mercurial attacking talents in the most part. Credit for that must go to the manager.
Former Manchester United player Gary Neville had high praise for Simeone's team, whom he compared to the great Red Devils sides of the Sir Alex Ferguson era:
Perhaps another source of Ronaldo’s frustration was a problem with his fitness. He was seen looking uncomfortable throughout the match, and per Guerrero’s aforementioned piece, the Ballon d'Or winner admitted that it may take a while for him to get back to the heights he reached earlier in the season: "I’m not from another planet. Maybe I’m not in perfect condition, but I will be.
"The knee issue is in the past, I’m used to playing with pain. In two or three weeks I’ll be fine and so will the team."
Atletico’s mantra is something that opposition players can appreciate too. Sergio Ramos was also quizzed on the tactics implemented by Simeone’s team, but—with his defensive head on, perhaps—had nothing but kind words about their style, per Guerrero of AS:
One can’t take anything away from Atleti. The[y] know how to compete well and I’m the first to congratulate them in making it through to the quarter-finals.
We can only look at ourselves. To cast opinion, that’s what you are there for. I’ll keep things to myself. I take nothing away from them. When the season is over we’ll see [which] teams are at the top.
Real have the attacking quality to get the better of teams such as Atletico, but Simeone once again seemed to harbour a hex over the Santiago Bernabeu club. There seems to be something of a psychological issue among Real's players when it comes to playing their city rivals, a notion given credence by Ronaldo’s post-match comments.
While Simeone and his wonderful side may not be to the taste their city rivals, there are plenty of football supporters on the continent who have enjoyed watching them bust open the long-standing duopoly in Spanish football. There's absolutely nothing wrong with diligent defensive effort, either.