Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo has admitted he and Los Blancos' other players are closer to new manager Zinedine Zidane than they were with former coach Rafael Benitez.
According to Sam Morgan of the Sun, the Portuguese spoke after Real's 5-1 demolition of Sporting Gijon on Sunday. He said:
He has given Real Madrid new wings, a push. We identify more with Zidane. Football is like that. Zidane and Benitez both wanted the best for the club.
Personally I have more feeling for Zizou, but don't ask me why. He has an empathy with the players and I am very happy and excited. It's an interesting moment for me and the players. We are in good shape and working hard.
In truth, his comments are hardly surprising.
Despite his lack of senior coaching experience, Zidane's illustrious playing career and history with the club immediately command more respect from Real's players than Benitez's managerial career ever did, despite the Spaniard's underrated trophy record and success.
As ESPN FC's Iain Macintosh noted, the pragmatic Benitez—never a natural or a logical fit in the Spanish capital—was rumoured to have upset Ronaldo as early as July last year.
Further, as Macintosh highlighted, Benitez is known for his questionable man-management skills, specifically his inability to relate to players on a personal level. The writer shared the story of the time the manager congratulated Fernando Torres in training at Liverpool—not on the impending birth of his first child, but of his movement in the Reds' previous game.
Zidane has already shown the ability to get the best out of Ronaldo, along with Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, in his first two games at the Bernabeu—something his predecessor never quite achieved even in the heavy wins he guided the side to.
Though it is of course early days, expect him to continue to do so as he inspires much more confidence from his players.