Real Madrid midfielder Isco: Cristiano Ronaldo 'has to win' Ballon d'Or
MADRID -- Real Madrid midfielder Isco has backed Cristiano Ronaldo to retain the Ballon d'Or and described his teammate as a "killer" after he ended his recent La Liga goal drought.
Isco, speaking at Real's Valdebebas training ground ahead of Tuesday's Champions League clash against Tottenham in the Spanish capital, has been named among the 30 nominees for the prestigious award after an impressive 2017 that saw him play a key role in the club's Champions League success against Juventus in Cardiff.
In recent years, the Ballon d'Or has become a personal duel between Ronaldo and Barcelona star Lionel Messi, with no other player winning the award since Kaka in 2007.
And after scoring the goals to lead Madrid to glory in La Liga and the Champions League, Isco says Portugal forward Ronaldo should once again walk away with the trophy next January.
"Cristiano has to win it, absolutely," Isco said.
The Spain midfielder emphasised that he is simply happy to have been recognised for his progress after forcing his way into the Madrid first team, rather than seeking to compete for the prize with Ronaldo.
"There are 30 nominees, some very good players, and if I was in there [top three] that would be great, but I don't think about that," he said. "It's very difficult, I want to live this time, this moment, now.
"Players live for the now because you don't know the future, but I am happy with how things are going and hope they stay this way.
"I'm playing in my position, closer to the other goal, and feel comfortable. I have a continuity I didn't have before, so you get this trust which is important for a football player.
"Playing at Real Madrid is not easy, whoever you are. You have to deserve it.
"We have the best players in the world, it is difficult, but I have been patient and when my time has come, I have been ready."
Isco also described Ronaldo as a "killer" after helping the forward end his La Liga goal drought.
Ronaldo's 85th-minute strike in Saturday's 2-1 win over Getafe, following an Isco pass, was the 32-year-old's first league goal this term in his fourth appearance -- an uncharacteristically long dry spell for Real's all-time record goal scorer.
The former Manchester United forward has scored four goals in two Champions League games ahead of the clash with Spurs, but Isco admits it is a relief for everyone at Madrid that Ronaldo is now off the mark in the league.
"It was only a matter of time," Isco said. "Cristiano is a killer and he hasn't scored many goals in the championship lately, so him scoring goals is important for us because we need him a lot.
"The atmosphere here is very good and this team has no limits. What we achieved last year, we want to achieve more and from now on, we will see a much better Real Madrid.
"We have important people getting fitter and that's good for us."
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_