MADRID — Two consecutive draws and a little rant by Cristiano Ronaldo have put Real Madrid on the verge of an early crisis.
Real Madrid got off to a good start this season but setbacks against Villarreal and Las Palmas in the Spanish league, combined with Ronaldo’s angry reaction after being substituted on Saturday, have created an air of turmoil.
The Spanish powerhouse still holds the league lead, but its advantage over Barcelona was cut to one point after the recent lackluster performances. Madrid also struggled against Sporting Lisbon in its Champions League opener, when it needed two late goals to salvage a 2-1 win at home.
The biggest problem facing coach Zinedine Zidane may be Ronaldo, who was visibly upset after being replaced in the 72nd minute in the 2-2 draw at Las Palmas. The Portuguese forward did not look at Zidane as they quickly shook hands after the substitution. Zidane was the one who moved toward Ronaldo and extended his hand.
Ronaldo had walked briskly toward the sideline after seeing he was being replaced by youngster Lucas Vazquez, sputtering words to himself and not hiding his disappointment. He continued talking, apparently in Portuguese, on his way to the bench, where he watched the rest of the game.
After the match, Zidane tried to downplay Ronaldo’s attitude, saying he didn’t think the player was angry at being replaced. The coach said he took his star forward out to rest him ahead of the team’s Champions League match at Borussia Dortmund.
“We’ve got a game on Tuesday and I thought that it was the right time to bring him off,” Zidane said. “That’s all there is to it. He always wants to play and be out there on the pitch, but I’ve also got to think about the player and he needed to rest and think about Tuesday.”
Madrid was winning 2-1 when Ronaldo was replaced, and Las Palmas equalized near the end to keep Madrid winless for the second straight match.
“We’re relaxed,” Zidane said. “We are working hard and focused on what we’re doing. We have to realize that you can’t always win, but we’re on the right track.”
Ronaldo did not play well but set up the team’s second goal on Saturday, scored by Karim Benzema, just minutes before being taken off the field.
The forward has been supportive of Zidane since the former player took over the squad last season, always praising his way of coaching. There had never been any signs of discontent from Ronaldo before Saturday’s incident. Ronaldo was crucial for Zidane’s team as it won the Champions League title last season.
Ronaldo did not talk to the media after the match.